Have investors got it wrong on Santos Ltd and Origin Energy Ltd?

In Friday morning trade, shares in leading LNG producers Santos Ltd (ASX: STO) and Origin Energy Ltd (ASX: ORG) are rising on the back of a gain in oil prices to a seven-month high overnight.

While news that OPEC members had once again failed to reach an agreement on a production ceiling should have acted as a dampener on the oil price, this negative appears to have been more than offset by news that US crude oil inventories have declined again.

Stocks exposed to the oil price such as Santos and Origin will understandably fluctuate with movements in the oil price, however perhaps investors have been paying too much attention to the oil price and not enough attention to the embedded value in their respective LNG projects…

According to recently published research by Adelaide-based EnergyQuest, Queensland is now exporting more LNG than Russia.

Gross Australian LNG production reportedly increased by around 53% in the March quarter to approximately 10 million tonnes (Mt) thanks to the ramping-up of production from the Santos and Origin-backed LNG projects, GLNG and APLNG.

With both GLNG and APLNG located in Queensland this has led to the sunshine state overtaking Russia in LNG export volume terms – Queensland exported 3.8 Mt for the quarter compared to 2.5 Mt from Russia.

Of particular importance for investors was EnergyQuest’s findings that:

“Queensland’s LNG projects have all ramped-up more quickly than expected and are near or exceeding nameplate capacity, the whole process has been very well managed with little apparent market disruption.”

Despite solid gains in recent months, the share prices of Santos and Origin remain down significantly over the past 12 months, 46% and 58% respectively. While the oil price and growing global supplies of LNG are key inputs into the long-term profitability of Santos and Origin, it’s possible that there remains value at current share prices.

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Motley Fool contributor Tim McArthur owns shares in Origin Energy Ltd. The Motley Fool Australia has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. This article contains general investment advice only (under AFSL 400691). Authorised by Bruce Jackson.

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