[Editor's note: A version of this story appears in the January 2019 edition of Oil and Gas Investor. Subscribe to the magazine here.]

The advent of a New Year brings reflection of old vs. new: What old habits of last year do we discard and which new ideas do we embrace? The upstream industry spent the whole of last year divesting its old grow-at-any-cost model for a new returns-and-cash-flow model. 2019 is the year when investors hold the industry accountable.

ConocoPhillips Co. (NYSE: COP)—not coincidentally the top-ranked company in Oil and Gas Investor’s Top 50 E&P rankings in the January issue—leads the paradigm shift. In December, the Houston producer announced its 2019 spending plan, which it held essentially flat year-over-year. The $6.1 billion capex projection provides for free-cash-flow generation with West Texas Intermediate at $40 and above, $3 billion in share repurchases and a target payout to shareholders of 30% cash from operations, with a modest 5% growth in production.

“We no longer think of our value proposition as merely disciplined; we view it as the new order,” Ryan Lance, CEO, said in a news release. “We are running our business for sustained through-cycle financial returns, which is necessary for attracting investors back to the E&P sector.”

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