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As investments within the energy industry undergo substantial reformulations to account for the growing uncertainty over the fate of deepwater drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, Fools seeking relative safety in the onshore space are encouraged to stick their heads inside a tiger's mouth.

Just to be sure this tiger is tame, perhaps we could invite a BP executive to be first in line.

The tiger in question is a 175-mile (onshore) natural gas pipeline that midstream operator Energy Transfer Partners (NYSE: ETP  ) began constructing this week. The Tiger Pipeline will service the highly prospective Haynesville Shale and Bossier Sands regions in Louisiana and East Texas. Its builders boast of "significant distributable cash flow" emanating from this 42-inch pipeline right from the start.

Following an inaugural capacity of 2 billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/d) beginning during the first quarter of 2011, Energy Transfer Partners already has the long-term contracts in place to justify expansion to 2.4 Bcf/d before the end of 2011.

But aside from deploying sacrificial oil executives, how can we be sure this tiger is tame?

My Foolish colleague Toby Shute has tracked the major movements within the red-hot Haynesville Shale for some time, and the play has continued to prove that its productive potential is far more than hype. Haynesville-heavy Petrohawk Energy (NYSE: HK  ) is experimenting with intentionally reduced flow rates to extend the producing life of wells, and Devon Energy's (NYSE: DVN  ) encounter with rapidly declining flow rates from a test well in the East Texas portion is counterbalanced by robust expectations for the nearby Bossier Sands.

One can certainly argue that leading leaseholders in the Haynesville and Bossier plays -- particularly Chesapeake Energy (NYSE: CHK  ) and Devon Energy -- present compelling valuations of their own following steady declines in share prices year-to-date.

However, before flocking instinctively to the producers, savvy Fools will grant ample consideration to a midstream play on the same productive region. Looking back over the past two years since I first recommended these shares as "Your Pipeline to Income and Growth," Energy Transfer Partners' hefty income component (presently yielding more than 8%) has boosted the stock to an easy outperformance of even those popular drillers. Kinder Morgan Energy Partners (NYSE: KMP  ) , which partnered with its rival to build the Mid-Continent Express, is another strong contender for delivering midstream returns, with a 6.7% current annualized yield.

By building a pipeline to access some of the most promising onshore natural gas plays on the continent, lining up long-term contracts to remove risk from the undertaking, and doing it all while reducing its initial construction budget, Energy Transfer Partners continues to earn this Fool's wholehearted nod as one of the smartest long-term investments in onshore energy.

How are you altering your energy allocation to adapt to the catastrophe in the Gulf? Please vote in our Motley Poll, and share your comments below.

Chesapeake Energy is a Motley Fool Inside Value pick. The Fool owns shares of Chesapeake Energy and Devon Energy. Try any of our Foolish newsletters today, free for 30 days. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

Fool contributor Christopher Barker can be found blogging actively and acting Foolishly within the CAPS community under the username TMFSinchiruna. He tweets. He owns no shares in the companies mentioned.

Read/Post Comments (1) | Recommend This Article (8)

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Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On June 06, 2010, at 12:26 AM, kipnoll wrote:

    Let's bear in mind kids that ain't nobody making much money off shale gas 'til the stuff is above - and holds above - $5.00 the mcF. Sure, there's lotsa hope out there, hype too, but hope and hype don't pay the enormous construction bills.

    I'm gonna need a solid, continued, fat-assed $5.00 on everything pumped before my money drills into shale. (Writer is a long-time holder of SJT and NRT).

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