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Shale Oil's Promising Future

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Two important pieces appeared over the holiday weekend to increase the enormous interest being generated in shale oil -- one a research report from Morgan Stanley (MS) and an in-depth piece by the New York Times. Both pieces point investors in one common direction - towards onshore drilling and lots of it being initiated in the next two years, and the stocks of oil services companies.

Shale has been very big in the energy news for the past several years, but mostly surrounding shale gas. New techniques to the very old technology of hydraulic fracturing have unlocked incredible reserves of natural gas thought unreachable even five years ago. The increase in retrievable gas from shale formations in the Haynesville, Barnett, Marcellus and other areas have been the major reason why natural gas prices have hovered at close to $4 an mMbtu for the last few years.

But acceleration in technologies unlocking natural gas from shale has had another derivative effect: It has also uncovered new resources for crude oil in shale thought to be also entirely irretrievable even two years ago. Oil companies are virtually falling all over themselves to drill new wells in the-formerly-thought-to-be barren fields of the Bakken in the Dakotas, the Permian basin in West Texas and in the Eagle Ford region in Central Texas, the subject of the NY Times article.

The reason for this is obvious: While natural gas hovers near multi-year lows, crude oil has exploded -- still trading over $100 a barrel in the WTI contract and over $115 a barrel in the Brent contract. At those lofty numbers, shale oil is incredibly profitable.

And profits alone are not the only reason for rushing to shale oil using fracking technologies. With 3,000 new wells expected to be drilled in the next 12 months, there is the expectation of 2 million new jobs that could be created and a further hope that oil from shale will significantly increase our domestic oil supply.

It's a drilling home run: more jobs, decreased reliance on foreign oil and technological advances that portend to bring the break-even costs per barrel down from the $60 where it hovers now. Of course, no amount of money could have generated these barrels even a short time ago. With the United States the global leader in shale oil reserves totaling perhaps a billion barrels, it's full steam ahead.
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