Free Markets, Free People

Our energy future should involve a lot of shale gas–if our government will allow it

This map should give you a good feeling as you survey it:




All the red you see in the US is a good thing.  This graphically shows the results of a survey conducted by the US Energy Information Administration in which it assessed world shale gas resources.  The legend is a little hard to read so, for those with eyes like mine:

  • Red colored areas represent the location of assessed shale gas basins for which estimates of the ‘risked’ gas-in-place and technically recoverable resources were provided.
  • Yellow colored area represents the location of shale gas basins that were reviewed, but for which estimates were not provided, mainly due to the lack of data necessary to conduct the assessment.
  • White colored countries are those for which at least one shale gas basin was considered for this report.
  • Gray colored countries are those for which no shale gas basins were considered for this report.

And here’s a chart that give you some of the numbers.  Pay particular attention to the numbers in the left hand column:



The chart doesn’t show all of the 32 countries, but I wanted you to see the amount of shale gas that is technically recoverable and the amount we import (10%).  With the development of these gas fields  we can up our domestic production and consumption (an alternative to oil in many cases) as well as become a net exporter.

Says the report:

The development of shale gas plays has become a “game changer” for the U.S. natural gas market. The proliferation of activity into new shale plays has increased shale gas production in the United States from 0.39 trillion cubic feet in 2000 to 4.87 trillion cubic feet in 2010, or 23 percent of U.S. dry gas production. Shale gas reserves have increased to about 60.6 trillion cubic feet by year-end 2009, when they comprised about 21 percent of overall U.S. natural gas reserves, now at the highest level since 1971.

In fact, this assessment provides good news for much of the world:

To put this shale gas resource estimate in some perspective, world proven reserves of natural gas as of January 1, 2010 are about 6,609 trillion cubic feet, and world technically recoverable gas resources are roughly 16,000 trillion cubic feet, largely excluding shale gas. Thus, adding the identified shale gas resources to other gas resources increases total world technically recoverable gas resources by over 40 percent to 22,600 trillion cubic feet.

Of course the catch is “technically recoverable” – i.e. is it worth bringing to market even if we have the technology to do so?  That depends on a number of things, to include the cost governments place on those attempting to bring it to market, and the hurdles governments may place in their way if they attempt to do so – such as the hydrofracking controversy.

It is estimated that 80% of the new oil and natural gas wells in the US will require hydraulic fracturing (hydrofracking).  What hydraulic fracturing does is create tiny fissures in the rock so the oil and gas can flow through the wellbore to the surface.  Hydrofracking has been used in over 1 million – yes, that’s right – 1 million wells in the last 60 years (here’s an animation of the process if you’re interested).  The fracturing takes place hundreds, if not thousands of feet below the aquifer.

But, as with all things, the process which as been in use for over 60 years and with a million wells is now “controversial” with unsubstantiated claims that hydrofracking in these shale sites will cause contamination of the ground water.

Yet no evidence of that is apparent in the history of the process or an investigation conducted by the EPA in 2004:

U.S. government studies have found no evidence of drinking water contamination from hydraulic fracturing. In 2004, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) conducted a study to assess the contamination potential of underground drinking water sources (UDWS) from the injection of hydraulic fracturing fluid into coalbed methane (CBM) wells. EPA found "the injection of hydraulic fracturing fluids into CBM wells poses little or no threat to USDWs and does not justify additional study at this time." EPA also reviewed incidents of drinking water well contamination believed to be associated with hydraulic fracturing operations. It found "no confirmed cases linked to fracturing fluid injection of CBM wells or subsequent underground movement of fracturing fluid."

In 1998, the Ground Water Protection Council (GWPC) and a team of state agency representatives conducted a survey of state oil and natural gas agencies to establish an accurate assessment of the number of active CBM wells associated with hydraulic fracturing. Based on the survey of 25 oil and natural gas producing states, the GWPC concluded, "there was no evidence to support claims that public health is at risk as a result of the hydraulic fracturing of coalbeds used for the production of methane gas."

So, the map points to a bonanza of natural gas that is technically recoverable, would cover our own domestic needs easily (and may see some oil dependent means of transportation and energy production look toward to switching to cleaner burning natural gas) and even have us exporting the product versus importing it.

If … key word … if the hydrofracking Chicken Little’s aren’t allowed to have their way and delay or stop such exploitation.

Look, no one wants ground water contamination – no one.   But a system that has been in use for over 60 years an a million wells with no evidence it has contributed to ground water contamination has enough time and data points to help assure us of process reliability in this case.  Here’s something we can do now to help alleviate our energy deficit and cut dependence on imports.

Will we take advantage of this opportunity?

That remains to be seen.



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16 Responses to Our energy future should involve a lot of shale gas–if our government will allow it

  • I need a bit of clarification, if anybody has any about hydrofracking vs whatever they were trying on the Left Coast that was supposedly linked increased earthquake or volcanic activity (now abandoned).  The descriptions were vaguely the same, but sounded a bit different, especially since the enviro-nuts were gung-ho until the seismometers started to get excited.

    • Speaking of seismometers, apparently Japan got a 7.4 this morning.

      • Neo:
        Japan took another quake, at 7.4 (confirmed in Taiwan). Not at all good and is a typical trend that will continue into the month after next if we are lucky. No kidding. 7 anything is going to be warfare scale bad and really quite worse.
        Think about it this way. Right now, about 1300 miles away, your inner ear is not demanding that you grasp the handrail at the landing just to walk down a flight of stairs. You are lucky.
        Buy this:
        Go from there.

  • Do my eyes decieve me, or is there quite a lot of red in “rust belt” areas where manufacturing jobs are increasingly scarce and people might welcome the arrival of a large, stable industry with the promise of lots of good jobs?

    On the other hand, the presence of unions up there would likely mean inflated prices just to cover the costs of dues, extorted wages, and gold-plated benefits in perpetuity (cf. automotive industry).

    • Nope, your eyes do not deceive you. As someone from NE Ohio I would welcome the exploration and industry this stuff has the potential to bring to the state. Unfortunately the enviro types are already screwing with companies even attempting to drill survey(?) wells. It’s crap. This stuff could replace, and even grow, the amount of jobs needed in this area.

  • Rep. Dennis Cardoza, a California Democrat, told POLITICO earlier this week that there’s growing opinion among Democrats that EPA is becoming a “rogue agency,” adding that the White House needs to take action to curb the agency’s power. “I think the president’s out of step on this one, and he’s going to have to get his agency under control,” he said.

    • <blockquote>The U.S. government’s lead envoy on climate change said the United Nations talks aimed at negotiating a binding treaty to curb global warming are based on <a href=””>“unrealistic” expectations</a> that are “not doable.”

      Todd Stern, the State Department official who heads the U.S. delegation at the 192-nation discussions, said that a meeting this week in Bangkok was “marked by struggles over the agenda” similar to “bickering over the shape of the negotiating table.” </blockquote>

  • 1. Most people would be surprised at the amount of LNG used around the world. Ironically, we’ve been building terminals to import LNG, because just a few years ago we were running out of natural gas. It will cost a few bucks, but those terminals can be converted for the shipment of natural gas. And we already have the pipeline infrastructure in place to the terminals.
    2. Fraccing has revitalized the oil industry in Midland/Odessa (the Permian Basin). 10 years ago, the oil industry in Midland was all but dead. Today they are producing thousands of barrels of oil from fields that were written off as moribund.
    3. Natural gas is not a substitute for oil, but oil is one of the byproducts of successful fraccing. Not Spindletop gushers, but additional supply is additional supply.
    Unlike back in the old days when wildcatters prayed for another boom and promised not to screw it up again, today drillers are praying that the environmentalists and the government don’t screw them again.

  • an alternative to oil in many cases
    There’s no real alternative to liquid fuel which is oil’s most important role for us.  Liquid fuel is easy to refuel in vehicles and easy to store.
    Although some of the 2nd gen ethanol processes can turn natural gas (and coal) into ethanol.  Although the greenies don’t like that aspect of the process because its not CO2 neutral and everyone has been trained to react negatively to the word ethanol that this will probably happen in China who has a lot of coal and nat. gas long before it happens here.  Sort of like nuclear energy.

    • Coal can actually be converted to deisel. But it is a process that uses up a lot of the energy of the fuel just to create some. Still, if you have cheap and abundant coal, then it might make sense.

      • Number 1 problem with deisels is that they are more expensive than gas IC engines which ethanol can use.  Thousands of dollars more expensive depending on the size engine your interested in.

        Number 2 problem with deisel, although artificially imposed, deisel emissions on anything but a tiny engine are difficult to control and require more cost to address.  These involve emissions systems that approach the engine itself in size and in maitainence requirements.  Artificial or not, emissions requirements aren’t going away anytime soon. 

        Number 3 problem relative to process I’m discussing, the process i very low energy input required and is extremely aggressive and will make use of virtually all the carbon in the coal.   

    • Again, there is an alternative – we heard the plan to convert the trucking industry to natural gas. In the power industry most fuel is used to make steam to power generators. That too could be converted. It isn’t all about what goes in cars.

      • Natural gas in cars is problematic because of the weight of the pressure vessels.  A could see a large truck could equip them.  But cars, it starts becoming self defeating like heavy batteries in electric cars with anything more than a short range. 

        And after the pressure vessel vehicles start becoming common and when something goes wrong and one peals open and leave nothing but a parking lot full of shrapnel where a car used to be, I don’t think we’ll be thinning out and lightening up pressure vessels anytime soon. 

  • I began talking aout natural gas & the trucking industry about 2.5 years ago and was attacked not by “Greenies” as you refer to them but actually conservatives who would come onto the pickens plan website & call natural gas some hype made up by global warming freaks.

    Natural Gas is quite exciting to me and as a long haul truck driver, I have seen the equipment trucks going out to the various areas detailed in your map. I made a few films on you tube to talk about natural gas for work trucks that have been made by Freightliner & Kenworth that have the Cummins Natural Gas Engine.

    The pickens plan website set up an area of their blog for people to discuss natural gas in trucking because they really need the trucking industry support and this has been a challenge. In fact, President of the ATA Bill Graves has not welcomed this idea of Natural Gas Exploration which I find simply UnAmerican.

    There are a few documentaries about the fraccing issue, one called Gasland that is more than disturbing when the water from the facuet ignites after fraccing has been completed in the area. There is another investigative report that was done by Dan Rather that is available on iTunes which features a trucker who has to haul water in one gallon jugs for his wife before he goes out on the road (small jugs that she can manage alone while he is away), this is because their water became contaminated after a fraccing procedure.

    I think natural gas exploration in the U.S.A. is imperative to become energy independant but I find it odd that the suspicion has shifted the other way and I do not think using provocative words to polorize a group will be the way out of our energy woes.

    We need fresh water to survive, unless we can agree that we accept the trade off for fuel to be polluted water OR having to buy bottled water in the future… forever…

    The key words are indeed “technically recoverable”, that is to say can fraccing be completed in a cost effective manner using something else besides the chemical lubricants?

    I also do not trut the EPA, they are about as bought off & ineffective as a government entity can get.

    The infrastructure in already in place for a fleet of truck to run in the western states on natural gas (CNG), and/ or fleets that return to one fueling site at the end of the day. Such as Buses, UPS, Taxi’s, Cement Trucks etc but strong support is need from the trucking industry which is quite powerful and has no problem throwing out a red herring to get people to fight amongst themselves.

    Switching to Natural Gas is seen as being forced to make capital expenditures in an industry where everyone is tucked into bed together tight.

    Responsible people will want to know about the chemical lubricants, I support natural gas exploration and American Independance from foriegn oil but I want to know what is in the chemical lubricants and if it has seeped into the ground water from spillage that could have or should have been contained I want to know that also. This is a very big question that should be answered properly so we can proceed correctly.