(Recasts, adds analyst comments)
By Hezron Selvi
BANGALORE, June 30 (Reuters) - Shares of Petrohawk Energy Corp (HK.N) touched a new year high, after the oil and gas producer said its initial horizontal well in the Haynesville Shale in Louisiana started production at an average rate of about 16.8 million cubic feet of natural gas per day.
"This rate is the highest initial rate from the three wells press released by industry," JP Morgan analyst Joseph Allman wrote in a research note.
In May, Penn Virginia Corp (PVA.N) said its first horizontal test well in the Haynesville shale started production at a rate of about 8.0 million cubic feet of natural gas per day.
Canada's biggest oil and gas producer EnCana Corp (ECA.TO) has also reported that its well in the Haynesville shale flowed at an initial production rate of more than 8 million cubic feet of natural gas per day.
In March, Chesapeake Energy's (CHK.N) CEO Aubrey McClendon said Haynesville may hold an eye-popping 20 trillion cubic feet equivalent of potential reserves -- nearly equal to the amount of gas consumed in the United States last year.
"This initial well not only increases the industry's sample set of horizontal drilling results, but also helps confirm the large gas in-place estimates driving the land grab to gain access to this over-pressured reservoir," BMO Capital Markets analyst Dan McSpirit said in a report to clients.
Advances in drilling and high oil and natural gas prices have triggered a frenzy of exploration activity among energy companies in "unconventional" fields like the Haynesville, where oil and natural gas are locked in substances like shale that were once considered too costly for drilling.
Petrohawk also said that it has leases or commitments for about 275,000 net acres in the Haynesville Shale and Bossier Shale of Northwest Louisiana and East Texas.
The company had previously said it owns or has commitments to acquire over 150,000 net acres in the region.
Petrohawk said it is currently drilling three horizontal Haynesville Shale wells and expects to have six operated rigs drilling Haynesville Shale wells by mid- September, 2008.
The company intends to bring its total number of operated Haynesville Shale rigs to 10 by the end of 2008.
The stock was trading up 8.12 percent at $46.45 in afternoon trade on the New York Stock Exchange. It had earlier hit a high of $48.50
Shares of other companies which have interests in the Haynesville Shale, such as Goodrich Petroleum GDP.N, EXCO Resources (XCO.N), PetroQuest Energy (PQ.N), Questar STR.N, Comstock Resources (CRK.N), and GMX Resources GMXR.O also reached a new year high following the announcemnt by Petrohawk. (Editing by Vinu Pilakkott, Jarshad Kakkrakandy)