In oil and gas exploration, shale used to be considered the sorry rock we drilled through to get to good reservoir rock -- sandstone, limestone or dolomite. Over the past 20 years or so, shale has come to the forefront as a major productive formation, primarily due to two factors... a production stimulation technique known as hydraulic fracturing and a new method of drilling -- horizontal drilling. The third key factor is a high enough price for crude oil and natural gas must exist for oil and gas companies to drill.
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The Haynesville shale of Northwest Louisiana and East Texas and the Eagle Ford shale of South Texas are two of the hottest shale plays. It appears that they will become more prolific than the grandaddy, the Barnett shale of the Fort Worth basin.
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The term "play" means area where oil and gas companies are targeting exploration activity. There are many other shale plays in the USA. As time goes on, we'll provide information on all of these emerging oil and gas targets.
Do you own mineral rights in a shale play?
The Haynesville shale (Haynesville shale map), Barnett shale, Bakken shale, Marcellus shale, Niobrara shale and Granite Wash are the hottest shale plays but we will cover all of them. Here is a brief list:
These plays feature organic-rich shales, meaning they are loaded with hydrocarbons -- oil and gas. The problem is they are "tight," meaning very low permeability. Most of the emerging shale plays produce mostly natural gas (Haynesville shale, Marcellus shale, etc.) but some, such as the Bakken shale and Eagle Ford shale, produce oil. Some, such as the Green River oil shale, require mining but most are produced by drilling with conventional oil and gas rigs.
Shales were deposited millions of years ago in a deep water environment. Primarily consisting of super fine clay particles, they are rich in carbon (which can become oil and natural gas) from the remains of tiny marine life forms.
It's an exciting development in oil and gas exploration and many mineral owners will get a nice paycheck!