Energy crisis is postponed as new gas rescues the world

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Energy crisis is postponed as new gas rescues the world

Post#1 » Sun Oct 25, 2009 1:43 am


News Xtra - 24th October, 2009

Guest: Nick Grealy
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Unlike conventional gas production, shale gas potential is not confined to limited traps or structures, and may exist across large geographic areas. Gas is held in the shale not only in tiny pores, but also in a solid solution bound onto the rock grains. The key to producing these shales is connecting the pores through the introduction of an artificial fracture system, and lowering the pressure in the rock (through production) to allow the gas in solid solution to become gaseous and flow.

In addition to higher gas prices, the ability to undertake large scale shale gas development has followed improvements in hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling which allows delivery of the massive fracture treatments necessary to obtain gas flows at commercial rates.

More recently, aided by both technology and price, companies have found it economical to produce gas directly from some of the source rocks themselves, typically shales and coals.

Under the right circumstances gas has been found in sufficient volumes and been producible at sufficient rates to make these "unconventional reservoirs" key exploration and development targets. Although gas is still stored in pores and fractures as in "conventional" gas plays, in the "unconventional" shale plays these pore spaces are small and the fractures are extremely fine.

However, the rock grains also hold (adsorb) gas volumes that have never been released into the pore or fracture spaces, and will never be released (desorbed) until the reservoir pressure is reduced as a result of production. A major advantage that shale source rock reservoirs bring, is that a trap to confine the gas is no longer needed. This expands dramatically the area over which gas can be found, and moves the paradigm for establishing production away from one of location dependency (finding the traps where the gas is present) towards one of optimizing drilling, stimulation and completion techniques.

The United States Geological Survey (USGS) estimates that shale gas resources (that is technically recoverable, may be as much as twice the estimated undiscovered conventional gas resources.

Energy crisis is postponed as new gas rescues the world

Engineers have performed their magic once again.
The world is not going to run short of energy as soon as feared.

By Ambrose Evans-Pritchard - 11 Oct 2009

America is not going to bleed its wealth importing fuel. Russia's grip on Europe's gas will weaken. Improvident Britain may avoid paralysing blackouts by mid-decade after all.

The World Gas Conference in Buenos Aires last week was one of those events that shatter assumptions. Advances in technology for extracting gas from shale and methane beds have quickened dramatically, altering the global balance of energy faster than almost anybody expected.

Tony Hayward, BP's chief executive, said proven natural gas reserves around the world have risen to 1.2 trillion barrels of oil equivalent, enough for 60 years' supply – and rising fast.

"There has been a revolution in the gas fields of North America. Reserve estimates are rising sharply as technology unlocks unconventional resources," he said.

This is almost unknown to the public, despite the efforts of Nick Grealy at "No Hot Air" who has been arguing for some time that Britain's shale reserves could replace declining North Sea output.
Rune Bjornson from Norway's StatoilHydro said exploitable reserves are much greater than supposed just three years ago and may meet global gas needs for generations.

"The common wisdom was that unconventional gas was too difficult, too expensive and too demanding," he said, according to Petroleum Economist. "This has changed. If we ever doubted that gas was the fuel of the future – in many ways there's the answer."

The breakthrough has been to combine 3-D seismic imaging with new technologies to free "tight gas" by smashing rocks, known as hydro-fracturing or "fracking" in the trade.

The US is leading the charge. Operations in Pennsylvania and Texas have already been sufficient to cut US imports of liquefied natural gas (LGN) from Trinidad and Qatar to almost nil, with knock-on effects for the global gas market – and crude oil. It is one reason why spot prices for some LNG deliveries have dropped to 50pc of pipeline contracts.

Energy bulls gambling that the world economy will soon resume its bubble trajectory need to remember two facts: industrial production over the last year is still down 19pc in Japan, 18pc in Italy, 17pc in Germany, 15pc in Canada, 13pc in France and Russia. 11pc in the US and the UK and 10pc in Brazil. A 12pc rise in China does not offset this.

OPEC states are cheating on quota cuts. Non-compliance has fallen to 62pc from 82pc in March. Iran, Nigeria, Venezuela et al face a budget crunch. Why comply when non-OPEC Russia is pumping at breakneck speed?

The US Energy Department expects shale to meet half of US gas demand within 20 years, if not earlier. Projects are cranking up in eastern France and Poland. Exploration is under way in Australia, India and China.

Texas A&M University said US methods could increase global gas reserves by nine times to 16,000 TCF (trillion cubic feet). Almost a quarter is in China but it may lack the water resources to harness the technology given the depletion of the North China water basin.

Needless to say, the Kremlin is irked. "There's a lot of myths about shale production," said Gazprom's Alexander Medvedev.

If the new forecasts are accurate, Gazprom is not going to be the perennial cash cow funding Russia's great power resurgence. Russia's budget may be in structural deficit.

As for the US, we may soon be looking at an era when gas, wind and solar power, combined with a smarter grid and a switch to electric cars returns the country to near energy self-sufficiency.

This has currency implications. If you strip out the energy deficit, America's vaulting savings rate may soon bring the current account back into surplus – and that is going to come at somebody else's expense, chiefly Japan, Germany and, up to a point, China.

Shale gas is undoubtedly messy. Millions of gallons of water mixed with sand, hydrochloric acid and toxic chemicals are blasted at rocks. This is supposed to happen below the water basins but accidents have been common. Pennsylvania's eco-police have shut down a Cabot Oil & Gas operation after 8,000 gallons of chemicals spilled into a stream.

Nor is it exactly green. Natural gas has much lower CO2 emissions than coal, even from shale – which is why the Sierra Club is backing it as the lesser of evils against "clean coal" (not yet a reality). The US Federal Energy Regulatory Commission said America may not need any new coal or nuclear plants "ever" again.

I am not qualified to judge where gas excitement crosses into hyperbole. I pass on the story because the claims of BP and Statoil are so extraordinary that we may need to rewrite the geo-strategy textbooks for the next half century.


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Gas from shale seen as raising global supplies

Post#2 » Sun Oct 25, 2009 1:44 am

Gas from shale seen as raising global supplies ... l-supplies
OKLAHOMA CITY, Oct 10 — A new technique that tapped previously inaccessible supplies of natural gas in the United States is spreading to the rest of the world, raising hopes of a huge expansion in global reserves of the cleanest fossil fuel.

Italian and Norwegian oil engineers and geologists have arrived in Texas, Oklahoma and Pennsylvania to learn how to extract gas from layers of a black rock called shale. Companies are leasing huge tracts of land across Europe for exploration. And oil executives are gathering rocks and scrutinising Asian and North African geological maps in search of other fields.

The global drilling rush is still in its early stages. But energy analysts are already predicting that shale could reduce Europe’s dependence on Russian gas. They said they believed that gas reserves in many countries could increase over the next two decades, comparable with the 40 per cent increase in the United States in recent years.

“It’s a breakout play that is going to identify gigantic resources around the world,” said Amy Myers Jaffe, an energy expert at Rice University. “That will change the geopolitics of natural gas.”

More extensive use of natural gas could aid in reducing global warming, because gas produces fewer emissions of greenhouse gases than either oil or coal. China and India, which have growing economies that rely heavily on coal for electricity, appear to have large potential for production of shale gas. Larger gas reserves would encourage developing countries to convert more of their transportation fleets to use gas rather than gasoline.

Shale is a sedimentary rock rich in organic material that is found in many parts of the world. It was of little use as a source of gas until about a decade ago, when American companies developed new techniques to fracture the rock and drill horizontally.

Because so little drilling has been done in shale fields outside of the United States and Canada, gas analysts have made a wide array of estimates for how much shale gas could be tapped globally. Even the most conservative estimates are enormous, projecting at least a 20 per cent increase in the world’s known reserves of natural gas.

One recent study by IHS Cambridge Energy Research Associates, a consulting group, calculated that the recoverable shale gas outside of North America could turn out to be equivalent to 211 years’ worth of gas consumption in the United States at the present level of demand, and maybe as much as 690 years. The low figure would represent a 50 per cent increase in the world’s known gas reserves, and the high figure, a 160 per cent increase.

The projections suggest that the new method of producing gas “is the biggest energy innovation of the decade,” said Daniel Yergin, chairman of the Cambridge consulting group. “And the amazing thing is there was no grand opening ceremony for it. It just snuck up.”

Over the last five years, production of gas from shale has spread across wide swaths of Texas, Louisiana and Pennsylvania. All the new production has produced a glut of gas in the United States, helping to drive down gas prices and utility costs.

Now American companies are looking abroad for lucrative shale fields in countries hungry for more energy. They are focusing particularly on Europe, where gas prices are sometimes twice what they are in the United States, and large shale beds are located close to some cities.

Exxon Mobil has drilled a few exploratory wells in Germany in recent months. Devon Energy is teaming up with Total, the French oil company, seeking approval to drill in France. ConocoPhillips announced recently that it had signed an agreement with a subsidiary of a small British firm to explore a million acres in the Baltic Basin of Poland.

Early estimates of recoverable European shale gas resources range up to 400 trillion cubic feet, less than half the industry’s estimates of what is recoverable in the United States. But European energy executives say they are excited about the prospects because the Continent’s conventional gas reserves are too small to meet demand.

“It is obvious to everybody that it has huge potential,” said Oivind Reinertsen, president of StatoilHydro USA and Mexico, a Norwegian company with growing shale interests. “You see a lot of land-grabbing by different companies in Europe, potentially spreading to the Far East, China and India.”

Donald I. Hertzmark, a consultant who advises multinational oil companies on gas projects, said that in a decade or so, the new shale gas resources would improve Europe’s ability to withstand any future reduction in Russian pipeline shipments. In 2006 and again last winter, Russia cut off gas deliveries shipped through Ukraine because of disputes between the two countries, causing shortages around Europe.

European companies are buying large interests in shale fields in the United States, partly to supply the American market, but also to learn the specialised mapping and drilling techniques required for shale gas.

Several of the European companies have entered into partnerships with smaller American companies. ENI of Italy paid US$280 million (RM980 million) in May for a stake in a 13,000-acre gas field north of Fort Worth operated by Quicksilver Resources. ENI has a crew of four engineers, a geologist and a geophysicist in Texas to learn from Quicksilver personnel.

One of the biggest marriages is between Chesapeake Energy of Oklahoma City and its strategic partner StatoilHydro.

Seeking cash, Chesapeake agreed to sell Statoil a large stake in its Marcellus shale holdings, centred in Pennsylvania, for US$3.9 billion last November. The two companies are looking at shale fields in China, India, Australia and other countries. Seven Statoil employees are working in Oklahoma and Pennsylvania learning to map and fracture shale and calculate shale gas pressures, and more are coming.

“We know the shale is out there,” said Lars Erik Oino, a Statoil geologist working at Chesapeake headquarters here, as he rubbed hydrochloric acid on a shale sample to test its mineral makeup. “This could have a huge impact on the European energy situation.” — NYT

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