We've been busy lately, but it's been a good kind of busy. We have listened to E&P folks at NAPE and then a few days later, we attended a Houston Energy Finance Group event with the CFO of Brigham speaking on the Bakken--32 frac stages in one well! Finally, the piece de resistance: a SIPES luncheon where Jim Bob Moffett, co-chair of McMoRan Exploration Co., spoke on the huge Davy Jones find on the Gulf of Mexico shelf. How's that for a great run? At NAPE it was clear that the industry's mood is lighter again, and were it not for the uncertainty about natural gas prices, people might have been jubilant. The reason? The shales just keep coming, and some big finds elsewhere are about to jump-start the next leasing frenzy. First, the shales. Many exhibitors at NAPE showed Eagle Ford and Marcellus deals. But we noticed oily-shales such as the Niobrara starting to command more attention. (A landman friend called to say that the courthouse in Converse County, Wyoming, is overrun with landmen and every restaurant in town the same...and they are chasing the Niobrara or Mowry shales in southern Wyoming.) Now the rumor is that Rosetta Resources has a big shale well like the Bakken out in Glacier County, Montana, some 400 miles west of the main Bakken fairway. If that pans out and more wells are drilled, then boy howdy--a little side trip to Glacier National Park is in order. The Bakken play, meanwhile, continues to allow operators to showcase what horizontal drilling and frac stages can do. Brigham has reported several wells flowing more than 1,500 barrels per day and has reported fracing one well 32 times as the lateral legs keep expanding further from the wellhead, said CFO Gene Shepherd Jr., speaking to the Houston Energy Finance Group. The company's #1H State 36-1 flowed 3,807 barrels of oil equivalent per day from Middle Bakken, in the eastern portion of its Rough Rider project area. "Our four most recent wells IP'd at 3,300 barrels a day," he said. The comoany has 700 potential horizontal locations in its core area. Out to the Shelf. McMoRan's Davy Jones find on South Marsh Island Block320 looks like a big one. The next hurdle is getting a flow test done. Co-chairman Jim Bob Moffett was in fine form as he told an overflow crowd at a Houston SIPES luncheon that the only question is, should the test equipment be good for 20,000 pounds of pressure, or 25,000? If the latter, the equipment needs to be ordered and the MMS has to OK it, so the test won't happen until well into the second half of 2010. "440 degrees is the highest temperature we've seen but that doesn't bother me. We've see that elsewehere, like at Mobile Bay, but when you combine it with these high pressures, this is a challenge," he said. "It takes moxie, but winners never quit and quitters never win. These things are all too damn close to call. But these are the cleanest sands I've ever seen--no bitumen, no feldspar, no H2S. "Porosities are 13% to 22%. You get different readings from different logs. But downdip, the porosities go to hell, so we have a lot to learn. The challenge starts now. This looks a lot like the fields we drilled when we were young." --Leslie Haines, Editor-in-chief, Oil and Gas Investor lhaines@hartenergy.com