There’s a growing buzz in the commodities market over Venoco Inc. , which owns and develops oil and natural gas reserves in California; it has three offshore drilling platforms off of Santa Barbara, and has a big presence in the Sacramento Basin.

Venoco has about $1 billion in proven oil and gas reserves, and has a market capitalization of $635 million. Currently, the stock is trading at over $10 per share, with a one-year trading range of between $6 and $15 per share.

Last week, the stock rose by 30% to reach $10 per share after the company’s chief executive officer announced he would buy Venoco for $12.50 per share. On June 26, the stock price closed at $10.06.

That followed a curious trading event on May 16, when the New York Stock Exchange announced some “unusual market activity” in Venoco stock. No reason was given for the notice, but it has added some fuel to the fire that something interesting is going on with Venoco’s stock.

What’s etched in stone is that on June 5, 2012, Venoco shareholders agreed to a “go-private” agreement with CEO Timothy M. Marquez that would take the company private, with Marquez running the company.

Marquez owns 50% of Venoco stock, and reportedly has the financing in place needed to close the deal, although the firm’s board of directors has given Marquez a July 20, 2012 deadline to get that financing in place.

Venoco shareholders are hard-pressed to turn Marquez down.

His offer, officially rolled out in January, 2012, represents about a 100% mark-up from where the stock was trading at the beginning of the year. Baked into the cake is a rather large unknown -- what, exactly, is the value of those 200,000 acres that Venoco owns in what’s known as the Monterey shale, an inland reserve that includes not only the San Joaquin Valley, but also half a dozen of the biggest oil fields in the U.S., some of which were immortalized in the film “There Will Be Blood”.

According to a May 2012 article in Forbes, geologists believe there are 10 billion barrels of recoverable gas in the Monterey shale, with a single well potentially yielding 500 barrels of oil per day. Venoco, as the article points out, has hundreds of wells in the region, and would profit handsomely if all that drilling pans out.

But will it? Drilling results have