Exploration and production companies moved forward on the exploration of a number of lesser known shale plays in the United States during the second quarter of 2011. These emerging plays include the Mowry, Burkett and Geneseo Shales.
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Mowry Shale
Plains Exploration and Production (NYSE:PXP) is working on the Mowry Shale on its acreage in the Big Horn Basin in Wyoming, where it has 106,300 net acres under lease. The Mowry Shale is present here at depths between 6,000 and 10,000 feet and is from 250 to 400 feet thick. The company believes the Mowry Shale shares geological characteristics similar to other onshore shale oil plays in the United States.

Plains Exploration and Production recently drilled and completed the company's first well here. The company reported "high quality oil in small quantities" and is currently working on a second Mowry Shale well.

During the second quarter of 2011 conference call, the management of Plains Exploration and Production called the results of the first well "geologically encouraging" but not "commercially encouraging."

Plains Exploration and Production intends to study the results of these two wells and drill two more wells in 2012 to investigate this shale. (For more on oil investing, see A Guide To Investing In Oil Markets.)

Geneseo/Burkett Shale
Ultra Petroleum (NYSE:UPL) is developing the Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania, and is also investigating other shale deposits on its acreage here. The Geneseo Shale is one of these plays, which Ultra Petroleum estimates is present on approximately 75% of its leasehold.

Ultra Petroleum recently completed a well to this formation and reported an early flow rate of 3.5 million cubic feet per day and a stabilized production rate of one million cubic feet per day for the two months. The company plans five more Geneseo Shale wells in 2011.

Rex Energy (Nasdaq:REXX) is also active in the Marcellus Shale and recently announced a new position in Ohio that is prospective for the Utica Shale. While most investors were caught up in the excitement over this new position, the company also drilled a test well into the Burkett Shale from a six-well pad in Butler County, Pennsylvania.

Rex Energy didn't disclose any additional information on this well during its conference call, and the company plans to begin completion operations in the third quarter of 2011.

Another operator that was evaluating the Burkett Shale was Atlas Energy (Nasdaq:ATLS), which reported a number of successful test wells in 2010. Atlas Energy is being purchased by Chevron (NYSE:CVX).

Range Resources (NYSE:RRC) is also working on a number of new shale plays that the company collectively refers to as the Upper Devonian. The company recently spud its third well here into an area that it believes has a high oil and liquids content.

The Bottom Line
It is now apparent that the technology to unlock huge amounts of oil and gas resources can be used in many other areas in the onshore United States, as well as globally. This has the potential to help supply enough energy to meet the soaring demand that most analysts are predicting over the next few decades. (For related reading, see Unearth Profits In Oil Exploration And Production.)

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