Like moths to a flame, drillers are dialed in on a new potentially oil-rich formation named the Tuscaloosa Marine shale.  

Attempts to tap the Tuscaloosa have failed in the past, but with new drilling techniques, this time around may be different. And with the low cost of land, the high price of oil, and the estimated 7 billion barrels of oil in the region, many energy companies consider the project a risk worth taking.

Tapping the Tuscaloosa
Devon Energy
(NYSE: DVN) compares the Tuscaloosa to the highly targeted Eagle Ford shale. The company established a 250,000-net-acre position in the region, with plans to drill two wells later this year. Now, other companies are following suit.

Through a joint venture, Denbury Resources (NYSE: DNR) is making plans for at least two wells on its 105,000 acres in the Tuscaloosa shale. In addition, Denbury is also a prominent player in the oil-rich Bakken shale.   

Goodrich Petroleum (NYSE: GDP) recently acquired 74,000 acres for $13 million in the oil-rich formation. Goodrich expects to begin development on the land early next year. The move was enough to prompt one analyst to upgrade the stock, regardless of the company's less-than-stellar fundamentals.

Weyerhaeuser (NYSE: WY) isn't in the oil game, but the forest products company owns 65,000 acres in the region. The company is searching for an operator to develop the land. As an interesting side note, legendary investor John Paulson recently took a sizable position in the company. 

Swift Energy (NYSE: SFY) also owns acreage in the region, but as of now, it's taking a "wait and watch" approach before proceeding to drill.

The bottom line
In investing parlance, the Tuscaloosa Marine shale could be considered the penny stock of shale plays. The potential is great, but so is the risk. Be on the lookout for positive developments in this region, and look to invest in companies that will benefit.

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This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.