The basic definition of an Independent Oil and Gas Company is a non-integrated company which receives nearly all of its revenues from production at the wellhead. They are exclusively in the exploration and production segment of the industry, with no downstream marketing or refining within their operations. The tax definition published by the IRS states that a firm is an Independent if its refining capacity is less than 50,000 barrels per day on any given day or their retail sales are less than $ 5 million for the year. Independents range in size from large publicly held companies to small proprietorships.
Many independents are privately held small companies with less than 20 employees. The Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA) recorded in a 1998 survey that "a large percentage of independents are organized as C Corporations and S Corporations at 47.6% and 27.7%, respectively. A total of 91.4% of responding companies are classified as independent (versus integrated) for tax purposes. More than one fifth of responding companies reported their stock is publicly traded. "
Independent producers derive investment capital from a variety of sources. A 1998 IPAA survey reports that 36.2% of capital is generated through internal sources followed by banks 27.8% and outside investors (oil & gas partners) at 20.3%.
Supplying Future Energy Needs
The US Energy Information Administration (EIA) states in their Annual Energy Outlook 2007, "Despite the rapid growth projected for biofuels and other non-hydroelectric renewable energy sources and the expectation that orders will be placed for new nuclear power plants for the first time in more than 25 years, oil, coal, and natural gas still are projected to provide roughly the same 86-percent share of the total US primary energy supply in 2030 that they did in 2005. " In this report the EIA also predicts consistent growth in US energy demand from 100.2 quadrillion Btu in 2005 to 131.2 quadrillion Btu in 2030.
Maturing production areas in the lower 48 states and the need to respond to shareholder expectations have resulted in major integrated petroleum companies shifting their exploration and production focus toward the offshore in the United States and in foreign countries. Independent oil and gas producers increasingly account for a larger percentage of domestic production in the near offshore and lower 48 states. Independent producers' share of lower 48 states petroleum production increased form 45 percent in the 1980's to more than 60 percent by 1995. Today the IPAA reports that independent producers develop 90 percent of domestic oil and gas wells, produce 68 percent of domestic oil and produce 82 percent of domestic gas. Clearly, they are vital to meeting our future energy needs.