Since Precision Drilling Trust (NYSE:PDS) landed its prey back in August, we haven't seen much in the way of energy services M&A. Cameron (NYSE:CAM) has finally ended the dry spell with an offer for separation specialist NATCO Group (NYSE:NTG). The all-stock deal, which has received NATCO's blessing, valued the firm at around $780 million at the time of the offer.

Looking back on our past coverage of NATCO, we've really had nothing but nice things to say about the Houston shop.

My colleague David Lee Smith first highlighted the firm in his energy services starter kit back in 2006, pointing to the importance of its carbon dioxide removal equipment. NATCO now becomes the second out of Dave's trio to be snapped up, following Hydril's acquisition by Tenaris (NYSE:TS). I can't imagine anyone swallowing deepwater top dog Transocean (NYSE:RIG), however.

I personally took a shine to the firm in 2007, when I noticed the management eating its own cooking. The board instituted some stock ownership rules that I only wish suboptimally governed firms like Acergy would adopt.

By the fall of 2008, even though NATCO's bookings were still looking strong, the shares were absolutely crushed. I highlighted the firm as a potential takeover target for oilfield services sponge National Oilwell Varco (NYSE:NOV), but it turns out Cameron was keener on this hydrocarbon stream cleaner.

The pairing makes for a strong strategic fit. Cameron already works in the separation area, thanks to its acquisition of Petreco back in 2004. The firm mostly outsources its equipment needs, so picking up NATCO will help to fill in its supply chain, and ought to enhance project delivery and service quality for its separation customers. Further, control of this leading-edge membrane separation technology should help Cameron pull ahead of the pack and win some handsome contracts, such as the $87 million award NATCO scored from Malaysia's Petronas a few months back.

As a stand-alone, NATCO Group was a great way to play the growing complexity of oil & gas production. Cameron is a fine company, and may be well worth holding onto, but for those exiting shareholders looking to redeploy their funds into a similarly themed small cap, I would point them toward Core Laboratories (NYSE:CLB), my pick for Best Stock of 2009.

Precision Drilling is a Global Gains recommendation, and National Oilwell Varco is a Stock Advisor selection. See if any of our newsletters spin your drill bit with a free 30-day trial.

Fool contributor Toby Shute doesn't have a position in any company mentioned. Check out his CAPS profile or follow his articles using Twitter or RSS. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.