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Monterey Shale, Northeast Nevada Plays on Radar

Among still-emerging plays on the U.S. shale horizon, California's Monterey Shale and an under-explored northeast corner of Nevada received a shout out at the BakerHostetler Shale Symposium on Monday in Houston.

Bain & Co. partner and head of Americas fuel consulting George Leis underscored the continuing potential in the Monterey as an atypical shale play, and Noble Energy CFO Ken Fisher reiterated his company's nearly four-year-old interest in unlocking the Nevada play.

Leis called the relative under-development of the Monterey "fascinating," adding that the controversy surrounding hydraulic fracturing (fracking) is not often raised in relationship to this sprawling formation across much of California's midsection.

"The reason is the Monterey's type of geology does very fine, thank you, with acid etching," Leis said (see Shale Daily, July 18, 2013). "So, somehow, [the Monterey] has been able to fly under the radar."

Eventually, the fracking issue, which is alive and well in California, may include the Monterey Shale, Leis said, but "the amount of technically recoverable resource there is truly enormous" (see Shale Daily, April 12, 2013).

The biggest producer today in Monterey is Occidental Petroleum Corp., which has an estimated 7 billion bbl of reserves in California plays (see Shale Daily, Aug. 2, 2013).

Fisher also offered a brief update on Noble's progress on a potential tight oil play in northeast Nevada, near Elko (see Shale Daily, Oct. 12, 2012). Noble has 330,000 gross acres in Nevada, which it estimates may hold the potential for 1.3 billion boe of gross resources.

"We drilled a couple of wells last year, and we will do some testing this year," Fisher said. "We hold a big position, so if it would work, it would add another core area to our portfolio."

It’s unsure how much drilling Noble plans for the Nevada play this year, said the CFO. Noble plans to drill a few wells and conduct some tests. "Hopefully, we have an update for the market as we get toward the end of the year."

Nevada's development by Noble has been in the works since late 2010. It was originally characterized by Noble senior management as "a tight oil play with some scale to it."

Last year in a quarterly auction, the Bureau of Land Management leased a total of 29 parcels comprising 35,889 acres in a promising unconventional find in northeastern Nevada to six companies (see Shale Daily, March 19, 2013). Billings, MT-based Lonewolf Exploration and Production Co. made the high bid at $163,840 ($128/acre) for a 1,280-care parcel in Elko County. Lonewolf also made the high bid per acre for a 157.3-acre parcel that is also in Elko County for $152/acre.

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