The Marcellus Shale in 2010 will continue to be a major focus of the exploration and production industry, as the huge size and potential of this shale attracts operators. The play may also see activity in New York, as environmental regulations are established and the permit process begins.

The Clear Leader
Range Resources (NYSE: RRC) is the clear leader in the Marcellus Shale and should maintain that lead in 2010. The company has amassed a huge position of more than 1 million acres, with much of it in the rapidly emerging core or fairway area in Pennsylvania.

During 2010, Range Resources will increase its operated rig count from 11 to 16 in the Marcellus Shale, and the company anticipates its production to exit 2010 at 180 million to 200 million cubic feet equivalent per day of natural gas. This is double its estimated production at the end of 2009, and eight times its 2008 end-of-year production.

A Switch To Horizontal Drilling
Several other exploration and production companies are accelerating development programs in the Marcellus Shale in 2010 from a vertical to a horizontal program. Operators typically drill vertical wells to test acreage prior to rolling out a large development plan.

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