While the Eagle Ford Shale, Bakken and other oily plays will probably get the most attention from the exploration and production industry in 2011, there are several lesser-known shale or unconventional resource basins that investors should watch during the year.

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Collingwood Shale
In May 2010, EnCana (NYSE:ECA) disclosed a position in the Collingwood Shale in Michigan, where the company has assembled 250,000 net acres at an average cost of $150 per acre. The initial well in the play for EnCana came in at an initial production rate of 2.5 million cubic feet of natural gas per day during the first 30 days of production. The company also said that the well produced "natural gas liquids constituents and condensate." The well later saw a drop in production to less than a million cubic feet per day.

EnCana has been quiet on the Collingwood Shale since the initial announcement as the company is apparently still acquiring acreage in the play. The company declined any comment during the third quarter of 2010 earnings conference call held in October, 2010.

Another company active in the Collingwood Shale is Atlas Energy (Nasdaq:ATLS), which has 105,000 net acres prospective for this play. The company's original plan was to drill two horizontal wells on its acreage in 2010. However, Atlas Energy is being purchased by Chevron (NYSE:CVX), and the company has not released the status of these two wells.

Mowry Shale
Another relatively unknown shale play is the Mowry Shale, which is a cretaceous era formation located across parts of Wyoming. Plains Exploration and Production (NYSE:PXP) has 54,000 net acres in the Big Horn Basin in Wyoming that the company believes is prospective for the Mowry Shale. The company is currently drilling its first well to test this formation.

Other companies that were active in the Mowry Shale over the last few years include Brigham Exploration Company (Nasdaq:BEXP), Chesapeake Energy (NYSE:CHK) and Abraxas Petroleum (Nasdaq:AXAS). None of these companies currently mention the Mowry shale in its marketing presentations. American Oil and Gas reported a vertical well drilled to the Mowry Shale in early 2009. The company has since been acquired by Hess Corporation (NYSE:HES), which has not discussed its plans for this area.

The Bottom Line
The exploration and production industry is focused mostly in 2011 on high-profile shale plays like the Eagle Ford and Bakken formations. However, there are some other less well known unconventional plays that might be worth watching during the year. (For related reading, also take a look at our Oil And Gas Industry Primer.)

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Tickers in this Article: ATLS, PXP, ECA, CVX, AXAS, BEXP, HES, CHK

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