By now most everyone has heard how the Bakken Shale of North Dakota and the Eagle Ford Shale of Texas are unshackling America from our dependence on foreign oil. However, beyond those two well-known plays are new oil-rich plays that continue to emerge all across the country. One of those plays is the Mancos Shale in New Mexico, which is one I think investors need to put on their radar.

Drilling down into the Mancos Shale
The Mancos Shale is located in New Mexico's San Juan Basin, which is an area that has produced hydrocarbons for decades. However, the combination of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing is now being applied to the oil saturated rocks in the play. So far the early results look so promising that Encana (NYSE:ECA) believes it is capable of producing 50,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day.

As the following slide shows, the play has three hydrocarbon rich zones.

Encana San Juan

Source: Encana Investor Presentation (Link opens a PDF

Further, that slide notes that Encana sees it eventually becoming a low-cost, high-return play. While Encana is still early in delineating its position in the play, it sees enough promise in this new oil play to name it one of its five core plays.

Encana is not the only company that sees this play being a core growth asset in the future. WPX Energy (NYSE:WPX) also sees it fueling oil-rich growth. In fact, it sees its 2014 drilling plan fueling 275% year-over-year oil production growth in the play. As the following slide shows, WPX Energy's initial wells have produced promising results across its acreage position.

Wpx San Juan

Source: WPX Energy Investor Presentation (Link opens a PDF)

While these wells aren't gushers by Eagle Ford or Bakken standards, the fact that the wells don't cost a lot to drill could make them very profitable to develop.

The strong results from Encana and WPX are encouraging other San Juan Basin operators like EV Energy Partners (NASDAQ:EVEP) to explore the potential of the Mancos Shale as well. As the following slide shows, EV Energy thinks that more than 20,000 of its acres in the region might be prospective for the Mancos Shale.

Ev Energy Partners San Juan

Source: EV Energy Partners Investor Presentation (Link opens a PDF

However, because EV Energy Partners is an income focused MLP it's planning on finding a joint venture partner for its position in the play. That partner will be getting in real early on what looks to be a nice oil play. Not only that but it will really help EV Energy Partners, which is mainly a natural gas focused company, to increase its oil production. This emerging oil-rich shale play could add important diversification to the company's production mix as well as help to secure its distribution.

Investor takeaway
While the industry is really early in developing this San Juan Basin oil field, the initial results look promising. Early wells might not be gushing with oil, but these wells are low-cost and should become high return once hitting full development mode. That could fuel solid long-term returns as well as providing additional oil exposure to gassy companies like Encana and EV Energy Partners. 

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Matt DiLallo has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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