Monday, October 19, 2009

Natural Gas from Shale?

Natural gas from shale may be remaking the world's energy prospects. This is the result suggested by new technologies and new discoveries of usable shale. See, e.g., "BP sees possibility of 100 more years of natural gas" (Oct. 9, 2009) and "Drill Gas Here, Drill Gas Now" (Oct. 19, 2009). It appears that natural gas from shale is recoverable in significant amounts even in Europe. See "Shale Gas Will Tip The Scale" (Oct. 19, 2009).

The last article is worth quoting:

A seismic shock wave is coursing through the global energy industry. Based on American innovation, a new way of extracting natural gas from prehistoric clay called shale is unbalancing the global energy equation. The traditional rulers of the fossil fuels industry – Saudi Arabia, Iran and Russia -- are watching in horror as independent wildcatters in unlikely places like Poland and Pennsylvania are finding gigantic new natural gas reserves. Shale Gas has been creeping up on the energy industry. As far back as 1981, a Texas wildcatter by the name of George T. Mitchell experimented with a new way of gathering natural gas from tight-rock deposits of organic shale. His idea was to drill horizontal wells 1 ½ miles behind the surface and then fracture the rock by using water pressure. ‘Fraccing‘ is the industrial equivalent of pressuring hosing the back deck, except that the process requires 2 to 3 million gallons of water and 1.5 million pounds of sand for just one well -- though 3 million gallons of water is not as much as it sounds, only the equivalent of 5 Olympic size swimming pools.


According to The Potential Gas Committee, which is connected with the Colorado School of Mines, estimated US natural reserves increased almost 40% between 2006 and 2008 due to shale gas technology. The US is now estimated to possess 1,836 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) of gas reserves, 33% of which is related to shale gas that no one knew how to extract economically as recently as two years ago. This translates into an additional supply of 26 years at current rates of consumption of about 23 Tcf per year. Total US natural gas reserves are now estimated at 75 years. In less than two years, the US has gone from a gas importing nation to a gas surplus nation.


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