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3 top oil companies to beat Woodside Petroleum Limited

Woodside Petroleum Limited (ASX: WPL) may be a giant when it comes to oil and gas production, but with few immediate growth options it is likely that any investor returns could be limited over the next few years.

Going forward investor returns will be driven by Woodside’s generous dividend, set at 80% of profits with a likely yield of around 6%.

But for investors looking to really juice their investment returns there are a number of fast growing, ASX-listed energy producers which could beat Woodside to the punch. Here are three which are top contenders to help you grow your investment dollar:

1. Senex Energy Ltd (ASX: SXY)

At $0.72 Senex Energy shares are flat so far in 2014, but could be poised to rise strongly if the company announces a material increase to oil reserves as the result of its recent 30-well drilling programme.

By teaming up with Origin Energy Limited (ASX: ORG) and operating close to the Moomba oil and gas plant, Senex is keeping its capital expenses down, has no debt to service and currently sells at a price to earnings (p/e) ratio of 12. This is lower than Woodside’s p/e ratio of 17 despite Senex forecasting full year oil production growth of up to 28%.

2. Drillsearch Limited (ASX: DLS) is another Cooper Basin energy producer which can be expected to produce strong growth over the next 3-5 years. Drillsearch is aiming to more than double production by 2019 and is growing both organically and by acquisition.

The company recently announced a proposal to acquire Ambassador Oil and Gas (ASX: AQO) which would act to increase Drillsearch’s acreage and potential gas reserves.

3. Finally, Santos Ltd (ASX: STO) has already started to ramp up production with the completion of its PNG LNG project and soon to be completed GLNG project.

Analysts expect Santos to almost double net profit after tax (NPAT) over the next two years and dividends are expected to rise from the current 2% yield as this happens.

The three companies each anticipate growth in excess of 10% in the coming years which could trump Woodside’s 6% dividend and juice investment returns.

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Motley Fool contributor Regan Pearson owns shares in Senex Energy Limited.