The exploration and production industry advanced the development of some less publicized shale plays during the third quarter of 2011. These plays include the Tuscaloosa Marine Shale in Louisiana and Mississippi, and the Collingwood Shale in Michigan.

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Collingwood Shale
EnCana (NYSE:ECA) first disclosed a position in the Collingwood Shale back in 2010, and has assembled 425,000 net acres prospective for this play. The Collingwood Shale is present in parts of central and northern Michigan, and like other emerging plays has dry gas and liquids rich sections. (For related reading, see A Guide To Investing In Oil Markets.)

EnCana has drilled two horizontal wells into, what the company believes is, the wet gas area of the Collingwood Shale. The company expects to complete these wells during the fourth quarter of 2011.

Another company with exposure to the Collingwood Shale is BreitBurn Energy Partners (Nasdaq:BBEP). The company has more than 120,000 net acres with the majority of the leases held by production from other formations.

BreitBurn Energy Partners reported, during its second quarter of 2011 conference call, that the company was not active in the Collingwood Shale, and was waiting for the industry to prove the play up. The company reports third quarter results on November 8 and may disclose additional information on this play.

Tuscaloosa Marine Shale
Devon Energy (NYSE:DVN) is involved with the Tuscaloosa Marine Shale, an early stage play that is present in areas near the Louisiana and Mississippi border. The company has drilled, or permitted, three wells into this formation, and is analyzing the results before planning more development.

Devon Energy disclosed during the company's third quarter of 2011 earnings call that it was looking for a joint venture partner to help share the cost and risk involved with developing the Tuscaloosa Shale, and other exploration plays in its portfolio. (For more on ventures, see Valuing Startup Ventures.)

One company, outside of the industry, that might benefit from the development of the Tuscaloosa Marine Shale is Weyerhaeuser (NYSE:WY), which has a small Minerals business segment.

Weyerhaeuser owns more than seven million acres of mineral rights, and already earns revenue from more than 1,000 wells. The company also has a small lease position prospective for the Haynesville Shale in the northern part of Louisiana, and has exposure to the Tuscaloosa Marine Shale on its acreage in southern Louisiana.

EnCana also has acreage prospective for the Tuscaloosa Marine Shale, and is partnering with Denbury Resources (NYSE:DNR). The company has approximately 270,000 net acres under lease, and recently completed a horizontal well with an average production rate of 310 barrels of oil per day during the first thirty days of production.

EnCana is currently drilling another horizontal well and expects to begin completion operations in November. The company also plans a third horizontal well into the Tuscaloosa Marine Shale.

The Bottom Line
There are so many emerging shale plays in the United States, that many don't get the same media and investor attention as the Bakken or Eagle ford Shale plays. This may change if the industry starts to report some successful wells in these areas. (For related reading on oil, see Oil: A Big Investment With Big Tax Breaks.)

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At the time of writing, Eric Fox did not own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this article.

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