It began with a Plains Exploration & Production (NYSE: PXP ) hitch-up in the Haynesville.
Next came the BP (NYSE: BP ) farmout in the Fayetteville. Ever since, all E&P eyes have been on Chesapeake Energy's (NYSE: CHK ) third proposed joint venture: a monetization in the Marcellus.
After I caught ExxonMobil (NYSE: XOM ) stalking this Appalachian shale play, I had to wonder if the biggest of Big Oil was going to make a big splash. Ultimately, I found it more likely that Exxon would hang back and swallow someone like Range Resources (NYSE: RRC ) whole.
Conference comments made by recently margin-mauled CEO Aubrey McClendon indicated that Chesapeake's partner-to-be would likely be foreign, and I proposed Petrobras (NYSE: PBR ) as a potential partner. It turns out that fellow Income Investor pick StatoilHydro (NYSE: STO ) is the one embracing the shale ace.
As opposed to Statoil's repeated surgical strikes in the deepwater Gulf of Mexico, this shale foray marks a new direction for the Norwegian energy giant. The move makes sense on several levels.
For one, by entering at this stage, StatoilHydro gains access to a vast land package that it couldn't possibly cobble together on its own. Further, by partnering with Chesapeake, the firm immediately gains a wealth of experience with regard to horizontal drilling and completion techniques.
The latter consideration naturally points to future applications of the technology elsewhere (i.e. internationally), and the two firms yesterday stated their intention to jointly scour the world for more unconventional resource plays.
As for Chesapeake, I probably don't have to tell you that $1.25 billion in cash up front, plus a multi-year drilling cost carry, is a welcome development for a firm that got a little more leveraged than the market can currently countenance. But just in case, here it is: This is a very strong deal, and should further reassure Fools that Chesapeake's not choking.