Last month, I wrote about the amazing shale race that's under way worldwide. Devon Energy (NYSE: DVN ) likes its prospects in places like the Haynesville and the Horn River Basin so much that it is selling all of its offshore and international assets to focus more of its capital program on these low-cost, repeatable plays.
Everyone from ExxonMobil (NYSE: XOM ) and BP on down to the scrappiest start-up seems to be intent on sniffing out new shale plays these days. To keep on top of these developments, I plan to run an update every month or so.
Marathon races to take Pole position
Our Thanksgiving edition begins in Poland, where industry expectations are clearly running high. We already knew that ExxonMobil and ConocoPhillips (NYSE: COP ) were lining up large acreage positions in the Eastern European country. Last week, we learned that Marathon Oil (NYSE: MRO ) has hopped on board as well.
I'll save you the nearly 50-megabyte download of Marathon's analyst-day slide deck and share the few details on offer. The firm's entry into Poland consists of a single concession, the Kwidzyn license, covering just less than 300,000 acres in the Baltic Basin. This acreage lies right near some of the concessions that Conoco agreed to farm into this summer.
Marathon's push into frontier shale gas follows its entry into various North American plays, namely the Haynesville, the Woodford, and the Marcellus. The company is also a heavy hitter in the oily Bakken shale play. The firm certainly brings a good deal of technological savvy to the table. What we don't know is whether Marathon's sitting on the right rocks. Time and the drill bit will tell all.
Wine, cheese, and ... oil?
Speaking of oil-bearing shale plays -- not to be confused with Royal Dutch Shell's kerogen-cooking schemes in the Green River Basin -- Toreador Resources (Nasdaq: TRGL ) is a small-cap E&P that's shed assets in several countries to focus on conventional and unconventional oil targets in France's Paris Basin. The company even moved it headquarters from Dallas to Paris, in a rare display of commitment to the area.
Toreador's whittled down its debt and corporate overhead to a somewhat more manageable level, but the firm still needs to figure out how best to tackle its oil shale opportunity. The company hired a banker this month to help it "evaluate strategic alternatives." Such language is often code for "sell the company," but in this case, some sort of financing might be just as likely. The $200 million shelf registration filed around the same time as this announcement would suggest that some serious fundraising may lie ahead.
A Foolish alliance alights in Africa
From France we take a flight down to South Africa, where Chesapeake Energy (NYSE: CHK ) and StatoilHydro have staked some ground in partnership with Sasol (NYSE: SSL ) . Now there's a Foolish trio for you. All three companies are recommendations of various Fool newsletters, and all are clearly pumped about global shale gas potential.
The Chesapeake/Statoil international joint venture, formed at the time of the firms' pair-up in the Marcellus late last year, is searching the entire planet for analogues to North America's best unconventional resource plays. The companies have professed interest in places as far-ranging as China, India, and Australia, but this application for exploration rights in South Africa's Karoo Basin is the first public acknowledgment of an actual acreage grab by the pair that I've come across.
The selection of South Africa as a shale hunting ground was a bit of a curveball. I'll be very curious to see where this duo drops in next.