The exploration and development of European unconventional oil and gas resources crept slowly forward during the second quarter of 2010. Several major oil and gas companies detailed plans regarding activities in prospective plays across Europe.

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Marathon Oil (NYSE:MRO) is involved with shale and other unconventional assets in Poland. The company added three new licenses in July 2010, bringing its total number of licenses to ten, covering more than two million acres. The company is looking to pick up more acreage in Poland, and current plans call for geologic studies in 2010, to be followed by seismic in 2011. During the second quarter earnings conference call, Marathon Oil announced that the company is looking for partners to help develop the areas covered by the licenses.

Chevron (NYSE:CVX) is developing European shale assets, and is also focusing on Poland, where the company has one million acres under lease. The company was the high bidder on three onshore blocks in Romania totaling 675,000 acres during the second quarter of 2010. Chevron didn't give an exact timetable on the development of these assets. The company will be conducting seismic in Poland in 2010 and 2011, with the goal of drilling the first wells in 2011.

Despite the apparent progress during the quarter, it is frustrating to watch the speed at which these prospects are being evaluated. This is especially true when compared to the rapid pace at which the independent exploration and production companies have developed domestic shale assets.

Hess Corporation (NYSE:HES) has disclosed the most detail about the company's plans for international shale development. The company is involved in a venture with Toreador Resources (Nasdaq:TRGL) to explore one million acres in the Paris Basin in France.

Hess Corporation is investing as much as $65 million for a six well program with an option to earn a 50% working interest and become the operator of the partnership if it proves commercial. The company will start development in the fourth quarter of 2010.

During the second quarter of 2010 earnings conference call, the company compared the geology of the play to the Bakken Shale in the Williston Basin. The management made the assessment based on old core samples taken in previous years.

Exxon Mobil (NYSE:XOM) is active just about everywhere, and has interests in Germany and Poland. In Germany, Exxon Mobil is acquiring more seismic. The company has drilled several wells and is evaluating the results. In Poland, the company has not yet reached the drilling stage and is evaluating its acreage there.

Bottom Line
European unconventional resource exploration and development is moving slowly along as the companies involved evaluate acreage through seismic and other means. Some initial development plans are set to begin shortly. The slow pace may be necessary to plan the correct development of these resources. (To learn more, see our Oil And Gas Industry Primer.)

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Tickers in this Article: HES, CVX, HES, MRO, TRGL

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