The interest in shales remains high despite relatively low gas prices and the fact that economic recovery – forecast to begin in the middle of 2010 – has yet to occur. Attendance at Hart’s Developing Unconventional Gas (DUG) conference is a case in point. The conference, which has been held in Fort Worth, TX, for the past four years, drew a record crowd last week, with nearly 1,500 in attendance. Not surprisingly, there was a lot of interest in the operators’ presentations (including Chesapeake Energy Corp., Petrohawk Energy Corp, Pioneer Natural Resources, Quicksilver Resources, Comstock Resources Inc., EXCO Resources Inc., and Forest Oil Corp.). There also was considerable interest in some of the emerging plays. With notable successes in shale development on the books, a lot of companies are more strongly considering a move into the shales. It goes without saying that risk takers who are first movers in an area have an enormous advantage if a play pays off. In many cases, the payoff can be huge. So it wasn’t surprising to see keen interest in some of the new areas in North America as well as areas scattered around the world. The 7:00 AM International Shale Breakfast on Wednesday, March 31, focused on global shale gas development, business opportunities, geopolitical issues, and current operations. Speakers Usman Ahmed, CEO of Reservoir IntelliLogic LLC and Wolf Regener, president and CEO of BNK Petroleum, drew a sizable crowd of early risers interested in taking shale development global. This year’s conference also featured the first DUG Technical Workshop, which focused exclusively on technical challenges and solutions for developing and producing in the varied shales. E&P editors moderated panels that addressed such subjects as microseismic technology, geo-navigation, drilling and imaging technology, proppant selection, perforating, fracing, and even UV technology for bacteria control. Hart is hosting several other “unconventional” events this year, including a Marcellus Midstream conference in Pittsburgh, PA, April 20, a Developing Unconventional Oil conference in Denver, CO, on May 18, and the second annual DUG East Conference and Exhibition, titled “Making the Marcellus Pay,” which will take place in Pittsburgh November 1-2. I’m looking forward to seeing what emerges from these events. I hope to see you there!