The energy sector is overflowing with company-specific events that many short-term investors use to make directional trading bets employing either the stock or derivative instruments. Here are some upcoming events over the next two quarters that should provide volatility for traders.

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Niobrara Shale
Continental Resources (NYSE:CLR) is one of the kings of the Bakken formation in North Dakota, but the company is also starting up development of properties in Colorado that are prospective for the Niobrara Shale.

Continental Resources just finished hydraulic fracturing operations on its first Niobrara well, located in Weld County. The well is currently flowing back fracturing fluid, and investors are looking for a good initial production number here to validate the company's investment.

Another company active in Weld County is Whiting Petroleum (NYSE:WLL), which is at the tail end of a seven well exploratory program. The company has approximately 75,000 net acres under lease and may release results of some of these wells once completion operations are finished.

While investors have bid up stocks with exposure to this play, the Niobrara is very much at an early stage of exploration and development, with few results released to date. In February 2011, QEP Resources (NYSE:QEP) plugged and abandoned a well targeting this formation after it was determined to be uneconomic.

Cabot Oil and Gas (NYSE:COG) is testing out the Heath formation, a new play on its acreage in Montana. The company just finished drilling a well and plans to start completion operations in May 2011. If Cabot Oil and Gas reports a successful well here, the stock may move sharply as investors may extrapolate the potential of the Heath across the company's entire acreage position.

Quicksilver Resources (NYSE:KWK) has been slowly developing the Horn River Basin and has 130,000 net acres under lease. The company has drilled eight wells and plans to drill two more in 2011. Quicksilver Resources has also drilled its first well into the Exshaw oil formation in the Horn River Basin, and plans to complete the well during the summer of 2011.

The results of this well will be highly anticipated by investors as the industry has not disclosed the results of many wells into the Exshaw. Like the Heath, a successful well here with a high proportion of oil and liquids might be extrapolated across the company's acreage position in the Horn River Basin.

Another company with exposure to the Exshaw is Murphy Oil (NYSE:MUR) which has acreage in Alberta that is prospective for this formation. The company is currently conducting appraisal drilling on its properties and has not released any details to date.

The Bottom Line
Traders love volatility and the energy sector has no shortage of upcoming tradable data points that can quickly move stocks up or down. (Before jumping into this hot sector, learn how these companies make their money. Check out Oil And Gas Industry Primer.)

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