It’s interesting to be a part of this weird e-revolution in the publishing industry. While pundits have predicted the demise of print media for years, only now are we seeing that dire threat move closer to reality. Vaunted titles are closing right and left – the Rocky Mountain News, my hometown newspaper, recently shut its doors after 150 years of reporting Denver-area news. Those of us who are left with jobs are having to learn how to do them all over again. One of the stranger aspects of our “new” jobs is the fact that we actually have a pretty good idea of who is reading what we write, or at least how many mouse clicks we’ve managed to lure with a given topic. In the past we had to rely on reader feedback, which wasn’t always positive but at least meant that we weren’t writing in a vacuum. Now we’re actually expected to entice readers to read what we write. It’s all about the headline, folks. Internally we joke about “doom and gloom” headlines – rather like a bloody roadside accident, people just can’t help but gawk at unpleasant things. And there’s certainly plenty of gloom and doom to go around these days. One need look no farther than unemployment statistics, commodity prices, foreclosures, etc., to see that these probably are the times that try men’s souls. So it’s nice to escape once in awhile. I’ve escaped twice in the past two weeks, once to Golden, Colo., for a meeting with a consortium at the Colorado School of Mines, then to Fort Worth, Texas, for Hart Energy Publishing’s annual Developing Unconventional Gas (DUG) conference. And guess what? Nobody’s really focusing on doom and gloom. They’re too darned busy. The Mines consortium is known as the Reservoir Characterization Project, RCP for those of us who have trouble with large words. The project has been around for more than 20 years attempting to solve the riddles of the subsurface through data integration, multicomponent seismic, and time-lapse studies. I serve on the advisory board of this project. While I leave you to ponder the absurdity of that situation (after three years I still don’t get it), I will say that the “guts” of the consortium is the application of cutting-edge technology, along with the over-bright minds of a few graduate students, to solve thorny reservoir characterization projects. Every 18 months or so a bunch of new proposals goes before the board and the general assemblage, and the project that seems as if it will offer the most useful lessons is chosen for the next phase. So if everything is in the doldrums, why is RCP more flush with cash than it has been in years? Why did six companies approach the group with what are effectively science projects, hoping to better understand their fields? Shouldn’t everyone be retooling, regrouping, cutting costs, and generally gnashing their teeth? And if US gas prices are in the toilet, why would an entire DUG session be devoted to “screamer” gas plays in the Continental United States? You would not believe some of the fields and plays discussed during this session. One company has coalbed methane acreage in Kansas that has low-cost, shallow wells and fee acreage as low as $10/acre. And it has an estimated 6 Tcf of gas. In the Uinta Basin in Utah and Colorado, a play called the Mancos Shale runs 60-80 miles east-west and at least 30 miles north-south, comprising 1.5 million acres. In addition to the Mancos, producing horizons include the Wastach, Mesa Verde, Dakota, and Morrison. They’re all high-pressure reservoirs. And they contain huge reserves. In fact, when the presenter mentioned that his company was looking for partners, I considered dragging out my checkbook. Yes, low wellhead prices mean that now might not be the best time to milk every hydrocarbon out of these fields. But it’s hard to feel too pessimistic when this country alone continues to offer up world-class reserves (and one commenter at DUG said the Eastern Hemisphere is considered to have more untapped gas reserves than the Western Hemisphere). I guess it kind of puts that whole scary “peak oil” thing off a few more decades. Oh, and another thing I’ve learned about online journalism – word count doesn’t matter! Let the games begin.