The United States is endowed with such an abundance of oil and natural gas resources that it can be difficult for an investor to keep track of all of these plays. This is aggravated by the tendency of the exploration and production industry to publicize operations that are located in shale and unconventional resource areas.

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Here are some other productive and economic plays being pursued by various operators in the United States onshore area in 2011.

Cotton Valley
PetroQuest Energy (NYSE:PQ) is involved in developing the Cotton Valley formation on its acreage in East Texas. The company has 24,000 net acres under lease that are prospective for this play, and plans to drill eight gross wells in 2011. This acreage is held by production so the company does have to rush to drill before leases expire.

The Cotton Valley formation is usually overshadowed by the better known Haynesville Shale, which is present on some of the same areas in East Texas. Cotton Valley wells produce mostly natural gas, but also have a significant amount of liquids in the production stream.

PetroQuest Energy recently finished drilling the company's second operated horizontal well here and plans to start completion operations on this well in late August 2011. Another well that PetroQuest Energy was involved with produced 3.8 million cubic feet of natural gas and 250 barrels of liquids during an initial 24 hour period. This well was operated by Chevron (NYSE:CVX).

Buda Lime
Goodrich Petroleum (NYSE:GDP) is developing several formations in Texas, including the Buda Lime. The Buda Lime is primarily an oil play and is present in the same general area in South Texas as the Eagle Ford Shale.

Goodrich Petroleum just reported the Carnes 6H well at an initial production rate of 1,380 barrels of oil and 1.5 million cubic feet of natural gas per day. This is the third operated well for Goodrich Petroleum into the Buda Lime and the company plans to drill eight more gross wells here in 2011. One interesting item to note is that this well was unstimulated and only cost $3 million to drill and complete.

Red River
While Continental Resources (NYSE:CLR) is known mostly for its extensive operations to develop the Bakken and Three Forks formations in the Williston Basin, the company generated a third of its production in the second quarter of 2011 from the various Red River formations.

The Red River operations are located in Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota, and primarily involve an enhanced oil recovery operation. Continental Resources allocated $65 million in capital here in 2011.

Although the Red River formation is relatively unknown to investors, the play was discovered in 1967 and first developed with vertical wells. In 1994, horizontal drilling was used to develop the Red River B play. While not many operators are active in the Red River formation, the play still accounted for approximately 10.5% of total oil production in North Dakota in 2010.

Bottom Line
The popular shale and unconventional resource plays that have come to dominate drilling in the United States have seen lease prices bid up sharply over the last year as operators crowd into these areas. The high demand for oil services in these plays also creates capacity shortages and escalating prices for drilling and completion services here. Diversification into other oil and gas plays that are less popular, yet still economic, seems to be the correct strategy to deal with these issues. (So you've finally decided to start investing. But what should you put in your portfolio? Find out here. See How To Pick A Stock.)

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Tickers in this Article: CVX, GDP, PQ, CLR

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