Jason Barton

Professional Information and Energy News

Search Results

Projections for U.S. Shale Gas Continue to Rise

without comments

This is potentially excellent news, so long as the companies that explore for and extract this gas are willing to cover the costs for any damage to human health or the environment.

Read more about shale gas here.

Shale-Gas Output May Double by 2035, Reducing Energy Imports, U.S. Says

By Simon Lomax – Dec 16, 2010 3:41 PM MT

Production forecasts for natural gas locked in shale have doubled, which will help the U.S. become less reliant on imported energy, according to a federal agency.

[…]

The Annual Energy Outlook predicts imports will meet 18 percent of U.S. demand by 2035, down from 24 percent last year. Higher prices will spur fuel production, including natural gas, oil and coal, the agency said. Tougher energy-saving rules, such as fuel-economy mandates for new cars, and a boost in biofuel production from crops such as corn also will make the U.S. less reliant on imports by 2035, according to the forecast.

Overall U.S. energy consumption will jump 21 percent by 2035. Coal will remain the “dominant energy source for electricity generation,” although more natural-gas fired plants will be built because of higher supplies of the cleaner-burning fuel, according to the outlook.

The agency forecasts construction of five nuclear plants by 2035, contributing to a 10 percent increase in electricity generated from atomic power. The share of electricity from renewable sources such as hydroelectric dams and solar panels will rise to 14 percent in 2035 from 11 percent last year, according to the outlook.

Read the entire article here.

Positives as well as Overlooked Negatives of Shale Gas

without comments

The article below is absolutely correct in explaining that energy endeavors that produce jobs and other forms of prosperity for Americans ought to be pursued. Our society needs energy to flourish just as people need work that is safe and pays decent wages.

My concern is that some shale gas operations may come with such risk, given today’s technology, that their potential costs outweigh their benefits. These costs are realized in terms of aspects such as lost work and health care, as well as un-monetized costs in potential ecological damage.

Tough choices. It’s a fascinating time to be alive. I’d happy to go in to more specifics on how we make these choices if anyone is still reading and sufficiently interested to ask.

Marcellus Shale Gas Boom: Energy, Cash and Jobs, Jobs, Jobs

August 29, 2010

By Mondoreb

Energy boom in SW Pennsylvania, Northern WV

There’s a lot of drilling for natural gas going on in the southwestern corner of Pennsylvania and northern West Virginia: the rush to tap the huge natural gas reserves of the Marcellus Shale fields. The drilling and building of pipelines has meant an oasis of prosperity during a time of dreary economic news nationwide.

[Click images to enlarge; click again to super-size them]


JOBS, CONSTRUCTION & ENERGY IN THEM THAR HILLS

While most of the nation has been suffering through high unemployment, defaults, foreclosures and other Recovery Summer worries, one section of the country has quietly been prospering.

The southwestern Pennsylvania-norther West Virginia area has seen a boomlet of gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale field. Construction, jobs, drilling and trucks hauling equipment have been common sights along the roads of this mostly rural area during the last 18 months.

Marcellus Shale Jobs. What Kinds Are There and Where?

The Marcellus shale will turn out to be the largest job creator in Appalachia and other parts of the Northeast United States in recent history.

This massive domestic reserve of natural gas, which some experts believe holds up to 500 trillion cubic feet of gas, will provide good paying jobs for skilled and semi-skilled workers.

Read the entire article here.

The Hope and Peril of Shale Gas

without comments

Here’s yet another perspective in the ongoing discussion over shale gas and hydraulic fracturing (or fracking, spelled (“fracing” below by Samuelson).

I agree that natural gas provides great promise for the next several decades, especially as it diminishes our reliance on dirtier coal and dirtier and imported oil. But let’s look at that new estimate 90 years worth of gas coming from these new, deeper sources previously locked within shale.

If we move to more vehicles powered by LNG and swap out coal for gas in electricity generation, that 90 years must shrink as estimates on availability are projected according to current use. This means that gas is very helpful to me and maybe to any kids I may one day have, but even within those kids’ lifetimes, and definitely within the lives of the next generation, we’re going to have some serious problems.

As Samuelson says, natural gas is not a panacea. Yes, we should use it, as well as planning on using every drop of petroleum and every last chunk of coal. Continued innovation on other, renewable forms of energy now, not 20 years from now, will ensure that we sill have available gas, coal, and oil 500 to 1000 years from, rather than only 50 to 100 years from now.

This also ties in with the environmental threats posed by shale gas, only briefly mentioned by Samuelson. He says that fracking has been occurring decades “without polluting water supplies,” but the movie he cites, HBO’s “Gasland,” illustrates that this is not accurate.

Developing other energy technologies means that we can hold off on drilling for the supplies that are tougher to access until safer technologies have been developed.

Increasing supply of a diverse suite of energy options while diminishing our demand makes prudent decisions much more likely than if, 30-50 years from now, we are scrambling for any energy sources that are available.

Shale gas: Hope for our energy future

By Robert J. Samuelson
Monday, August 2, 2010

You probably have never heard of oilman George Mitchell, but more than anyone else, he has changed the global energy outlook. In 1981, Mitchell’s small petroleum company faced dwindling natural gas reserves. He proposed a radical idea: drill deeper in the company’s Texas fields to reach gas-bearing shale rock more than a mile down. Because the gas was tightly packed, most engineers believed it was too costly to extract profitably. But after nearly two decades of trying, Mitchell proved doubters wrong. The result: The world has far more available natural gas than anyone suspected.

[…]

How much shale gas exists is unknown, but estimates are huge. The Potential Gas Committee is a group of geologists who regularly estimate future U.S. gas supplies. In 2000, the group’s estimate equaled about 54 years of present annual consumption; by 2008, it was almost 90 years. “This isn’t the end,” says Colorado School of Mines geologist John Curtis. Globally, one study estimated the recoverable supply at 16,200 trillion cubic feet, more than 150 times today’s annual world gas use.

Some standard drilling techniques, applied imaginatively, liberated shale gas. The first was “fracturing” (also called “fracing”): injecting liquids into reservoirs to create openings that allow the gas to flow up the drill pipe. For years, Mitchell’s engineers experimented with different “fracing fluids.” All were expensive, and the resulting gas flows weren’t profitable. In 1997, engineers tried a less costly mix of sand and water. The economics of shale gas improved dramatically, says Dan Steward, a former geologist for Mitchell.

[…]

Shale gas has many virtues, but gains will come at the margin. It isn’t a panacea for every energy ailment.
Consider the impact on oil imports. In theory, natural gas — compressed or converted into a liquid — could replace oil in some vehicles. But natural gas now fuels only about 120,000 of roughly 250 million U.S. cars, vans, trucks and buses. At today’s prices, natural gas is competitive with oil, but there’s a chicken-and-egg problem: Drivers won’t use it without filling stations; companies won’t build stations without drivers.
[…]
The second threat to shale gas is over-regulation. Environmentalists are split. Some favor shale gas as a desirable “bridge fuel” until use of non-carbon energy expands. Others argue gas drilling will threaten drinking water supplies; that was a theme of “Gasland,” a film shown this year on HBO. The charges seem overblown. As the BP spill reaffirmed, all drilling requires regulation. There are environmental issues, especially the safe disposal of “fracing fluids.” But onshore drilling, including “fracing,” has proceeded for decades without polluting water supplies. In shale gas, thousands of feet typically separate shale deposits from water tables.

Read the entire article here.

The Promise of Shale Gas

without comments

This important subject has been addressed on this site before, and as I said then, if we can manage our demand for natural gas, we can give these companies time to develop this fracturing technology so that it can be done in more cost effective and environmentally responsible ways.

February 19, 2010

Ken Silverstein, EnergyBiz Insider
Editor-in-Chief

Advanced drilling and completion techniques are the critical means by which natural gas developers now hope to probe vast amounts of shale gas, considered by many to be able to fuel much of the country’s electric generation for decades to come. But before that aspiration can be achieved, producers must solve the environmental complexities.

At issue is how to retrieve such vast resources without harming water quality. The problem is that the shale is a sedimentary rock that holds natural gas 2,000-12,000 feet deep in the earth. To get it out, developers use a process known as hydraulic fracturing whereby millions of gallons of water and chemicals are pumped into the ground, allowing the natural gas to flow to the wellbore.

Read the entire article here.

Shale’s a curse and blessing for natural gas

without comments

Here’s another installment in the ongoing discussion about the potential for oil and gas from shale. It is interesting and important to put this discussion, about an uncertain technology with great negative and positive potential, in the context of the current spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Given time to work, technologies for shale and deep sea drilling both hold tremendous promise. Rushing them to market before they are ready and reliable poses equally tremendous risks.

By Myra P. Saefong, MarketWatch

TOKYO (MarketWatch) — A supply surplus has made natural gas a cheap source of energy, and its growing production from so-called “unconventional” sources such as shale may be destined to keep it that way.

“Natural gas is at a historically cheap price, assuming we’re just looking at the last ten years, but one major issue not affecting other energy markets is driving the price lower and lower,” said Neal Ryan, managing partner at Ryan Oil & Gas Partners LLC.

Driven by the nation’s growing need for energy and high natural-gas prices in recent years, interest in gas derived from shale, a geologic formation, has increased despite the high costs involved with developing the sources.

“Shale gas provides the largest source of growth in U.S. natural gas supply,” according to the Energy Information Administration’s Annual Energy Outlook 2010 report.

U.S. shale gas production was at 2.02 trillion cubic feet in 2008, up from 1.18 trillion cubic feet in 2007, government data show.

[…]

“Now many of those companies are being forced to continue drilling plans formulated for a much higher market price in order to protect those lease investments,” he said.

That’s “a dangerous spot to be in because the domestic market doesn’t need this gas right now, but companies are stuck having to protect their capital investment,” he said.

[…]

Total U.S. natural gas consumption by end use fell to 22.8 trillion cubic feet in 2009 from 23.2 trillion cubic feet in 2008, according to the EIA.

[…]

Even so, right now there are “a large number of wells that are being drilled to hold leases,” said James Williams, an economist at WTRG Economics, explaining that if a well is not drilled on a new lease within 3-5 years, then control of the mineral rights reverts to the owner and the lease is void.

Read the entire article here.

Written by Jason

May 28th, 2010 at 4:05 pm

Efficiency, Innovation, Natural Gas are Keys to Energy Security

without comments

Former Presidents Bush and Clinton are walking a fine line, balancing between taking advantage of the cost effective resources we have now, such as oil and gas, and the need to protect our energy security and natural environment for generations to come.

Two former presidents share many energy views

By JENNIFER A. DLOUHY and TOM FOWLER
HOUSTON CHRONICLE

March 12, 2011, 2:28AM

Oil will be essential for fueling the U.S. for decades to come, but low-emission natural gas and improved efficiency will bridge the transition to cleaner alternative fuels, business leaders, two former presidents and energy analysts said Friday.

Former President George W. Bush told a packed ballroom of energy executives at the CERAWeek conference that while the U.S. has a vision of new technologies to power our homes and propel our cars, the nation needs to be prosperous to afford them. And that prosperity, Bush said, is tied to oil and natural gas.

Although they have been political adversaries, Bush and former President Bill Clinton agreed that the U.S. should do more to harness the promise of natural gas, which produces fewer emissions than coal and oil.

[…]

But he cautioned that the nation needs to make sure that the hydraulic fracturing process, used to unlock vast stores of gas in shale formations, doesn’t contaminate drinking water supplies or create an accident that shuts down the industry the way last year’s Gulf of Mexico oil spill stopped most offshore drilling.

[…]

‘We’ve got to take action’

Big energy consumers said they are scrambling to offset spikes in crude prices and eke out more per barrel by boosting efficiency.

Read the entire article here.

Natural Gas Is Fantastic Now, But Let’s Not Rest On Its Laurels

without comments

This is a great example of apparent abundance of fossil fuels now becoming a strain on supply in the near future. Natural gas is clearly a comparatively clean option in the traditional energy matrix, and we ought to keep using more of it, decreasing our reliance on coal and imported petroleum. But if this article is accurate in its telling of nuclear and wind power generation decreasing because of increasing supplies of natural gas, we’re just shooting ourselves in the foot.

Another, recently posted article on this site listed about 90 years worth of natural gas available in the US, which I assume is based on current use levels. If we use more gas and less coal for electricity, and use more LNG to power our vehicle fleets, that 90 years will move down towards 50 years. Broadcasting that we have more than enough fossil fuels gives a false sense of security and lends itself to the license to continue wasting energy through inefficiency. Add in the disincentive to continue innovation in renewable energy supplies and the picture for the next generation gets pretty bleak.

Use the gas, sure, but let’s not make the ignorant assumption that we can continue with business as usual when it’s clear that, for economic, environmental, issues of national security, our energy system is in desperate need of an overhaul in the next two decades at the most.

Natural gas proves to be energy game-changer

Its sudden abundance is a boon to many and a pain to its competition

By JONATHAN FAHEY
ASSOCIATED PRESS

Oct. 17, 2010, 7:42PM

NEW YORK — By unlocking decades’ worth of natural gas deposits deep underground across the United States, drillers have ensured that natural gas will be cheap and plentiful for the foreseeable future. It’s a reversal from a few years ago that is transforming the energy industry.
The sudden abundance of natural gas has been a boon to homeowners who use it for heat, local economies in gas-rich regions, manufacturers that use it to power factories and companies that rely on it as a raw material for plastic, carpet and other everyday products. But it has upended the ambitious growth plans of companies that produce power from wind, nuclear energy and coal. Those plans were based on the assumption that supplies of natural gas would be tight, and prices high.
[…]
The U.S. uses natural gas to produce 21 percent of its electricity. Coal is the dominant fuel, accounting for 48 percent of the electricity mix. By 2015, natural gas is predicted to reach 25 percent, while coal is expected to fall to 44 percent.

[…]
Natural gas, which had traded at about $2 per million British thermal units in the 1990s, hit nearly $15 in 2005. It is now about $3.50, driven lower by reduced industrial demand and rising production by those learning to make a profit from shale gas at ever lower prices.
[…]

Plans for nuclear plants and wind farms were made under the assumption that gas prices would average $7 to $9. At that level, electricity prices would be high enough to make wind and nuclear power look affordable. Now many of these projects suddenly look too expensive.

Read the entire article here.

Written by Jason

October 18th, 2010 at 9:34 pm

Water among victims of gas drilling process

without comments

Here is another article on what is to me an interesting and very important subject: hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.” Not only is it a human health concern, or even just a matter for energy, trying to balance the advantages of the free market with the need for some sort of safety regulation is an effort that spans so many aspects of life in a capitalist society.
Published: August 22, 2010

Fracking. It’s a word you probably hadn’t heard a year or two ago. Last week the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency had to postpone a public hearing on the subject in Syracuse, N.Y., because of concerns the venue might not be able to accommodate the 8,000 or more people expected to show up and speak about the subject.

Both New York and Pennsylvania residents are getting to know “fracking,” an issue that’s of increasing concern to people in these states and the others that sit on what’s known as the Marcellus Shale – a geological formation that stretches north from West Virginia. In total, this shale contains what may be the biggest natural-gas deposit in the world.

To extract the fossil fuel, companies first drill deep wells and then use a technique called hydraulic fracturing – “fracking” for short. It’s a process that injects, under high pressure, huge amounts of water laced with sand and more than a hundred chemicals into rock formations deep under the ground.

[…]

Chemicals and water – there’s your first clue to why people are alarmed. A report released by the Pennsylvania Land Trust Association this month showed that there have been 1,435 violations of the state oil and gas laws in the past 2.5 years – at least 952 of which affect the environment. That’s more than one a day, the Sierra Club notes.

Read the entire article here.

Regulating gas drilling & fracturing

without comments

Internalize the externalities. That’s the job of government in this situation. If there are external or indirect costs from drilling for natural gas, particularly with technologies such as hydraulic fracturing that involve greater risk, the companies performing the drilling, and people like us who then buy the finished product by lighting our homes, pay those costs.

For example, if the chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing leak into drinking water and make people sick, the economic costs such as hospital bills and lost work are paid by the company who was doing the drilling involved with the leak. Of course this doesn’t solve all the problems caused when people get sick from bad water, but it motivates the companies to prevent such accidents, as opposed to setting up government funds to fix them, which motivates neither prevention nor the guilty parties taking responsibility for their actions. Then, as these costs are passed along to we the consumers, we’re motivated to pay more attention to the companies that provide our electricity, further enforcing the cycle.

Yes, it may seem shallow or even vulgar to think about issues of human health only in monetary terms, but it presents a set of very efficient tools for solving so many of the problems that go much deeper than money.

PA senator says US should regulate gas drilling

August 20, 2010, 8:13AM ET

By MICHAEL RUBINKAM

SCRANTON, Pa.

U.S. Sen. Bob Casey said Thursday that Pennsylvania’s emerging natural gas industry has the potential to create jobs and wealth, but also carries environmental risks that must be addressed.

The Pennsylvania Democrat told a forum in Scranton that the “gas rush” taking place in the vast Marcellus Shale region of Pennsylvania “can create a great economic boost” in a state where nearly 600,000 people are unemployed. But he added: “We must not fail to protect our people, our land, our water and our future.”

Read the entire article here.

Drilling Tactic Unleashes a Trove of Natural Gas—And a Backlash

with one comment

If there demand is  for natural gas and the technology is feasible, we’ll extract the gas even if the technology for a given location cannot be guaranteed to be safe. If demand is diminished, there is greater opportunity to develop the technology to be safer and more cost effective.We should take advantage of the vast natural gas resources available domestically, and we should do so responsibly and in ways that ensure sufficient energy resources for generations to come.

JANUARY 21, 2010

By BEN CASSELMAN And RUSSELL GOLD

SHREVEPORT, La.—A mounting backlash against a technique used in natural-gas drilling is threatening to slow development of the huge gas fields that some hope will reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil and polluting coal.

The U.S. energy industry says there is enough untapped domestic natural gas to last a century—but getting to that gas requires injecting millions of gallons of water into the ground to crack open the dense rocks holding the deposits. The process, known as hydraulic fracturing, has turned gas deposits in shale formations into an energy bonanza.

[…]

Matt NagerTrinidad Drilling driller Adam Rios works at the Reveille 1H Chesapeake Energy natural gas site in Fort Worth, Texas, on Nov. 23, 2009.

Frack

The industry’s success has triggered increasing debate over whether the drilling process could pollute freshwater supplies. Federal and state authorities are considering action that could regulate hydraulic fracturing, potentially making drilling less profitable and giving companies less reason to tap into this ample supply of natural gas.

[…]

“We can now find and produce unconventional natural-gas supplies miles below the surface in a safe, efficient and environmentally responsible manner,” Mr. Tillerson told members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

[…]

[frack]
[…]
Natural gas heats more than half of U.S. homes and generates a fifth of America’s electricity, far less than coal, which provides the U.S. with nearly half its power. The industry and its allies are promoting natural gas a bridge fuel to help wean the U.S. off coal, which emits more global-warming gases, and imported oil until renewable fuels are able to meet the demand.

What most worries environmentalists isn’t the water in the fracturing process—it’s the chemicals mixed in the water to reduce friction, kill bacteria and prevent mineral buildup. The chemicals make up less than 1% of the overall solution, but some are hazardous in low concentrations.

Today, the industry estimates that 90% of all new gas wells are fractured. Shale—a dense, nonporous gas-bearing rock—won’t release its gas unless it is cracked open, and other types of formations also produce more gas when fractured. Easier, more porous formations, which don’t require fracturing, were tapped in earlier decades and have largely dried up.

On a recent Friday morning, a crew from Cudd Energy Services worked to fracture a Chesapeake Energy Corp. well in Caddo Parish, La., the heart of the Haynesville Shale gas field. While cattle chewed grass in a field across the street, a team of Chesapeake and Cudd employees monitored computer readouts as 21 diesel-powered pumps forced nearly 3,800 gallons of water a minute down a well that reached two miles into the earth.

[…]

It is a process Chesapeake says it has learned how to do both efficiently and safely. “We’ve done it 10,000 times in the company’s history without incident,” said Aubrey McClendon, Chesapeake’s chairman and chief executive officer, in a separate interview.

But in a coffee shop in nearby Shreveport, Caddo Parish Commissioner Matthew Linn said he had concerns after more than a dozen cows died during a Chesapeake Energy fracturing operation last year. A preliminary investigation linked the deaths to chemicals that spilled off the well site into a nearby pasture. A Chesapeake spokesman says the company compensated the cattle’s owner and has taken steps to prevent a similar incident in the future.

“I’m all for drilling, and I want to get the gas out from underneath us,” Mr. Linn said. “But at the same time, how do you balance human life and quality of life and clean water against that?”

Natural-gas companies say what’s at work is fear of the new. “When you introduce something like hydraulic fracturing in a part of the country that hasn’t had any experience with it, I think it’s natural for there to be questions about the procedure,” says Mr. McClendon.

Read the entire article here.