Click on the headline (link) for the full text.
Many more articles are available through the Energy Bulletin homepage
Gas: Climate Panacea or Industry Propaganda?
David Strahan, thelastoilshock
I once hitched a lift from New York to London in the private jet of an American gas billionaire. Robert Hefner III, who pioneered the drilling of deep wells in the 1960s, was planning to write a book and wanted to discuss it.
The Grand Energy Transition would argue that natural gas will solve “peak oil”, when global oil production starts to decline, and dramatically cut US emissions of greenhouse gases. Abundant and clean, gas offered a perfect bridging fuel to a future of limitless low-carbon energy based on hydrogen.
That was five years ago, with gas prices approaching near-record highs, so I was sceptical to say the least. But these days the US is awash with cheap, newly producible shale gas, and enthusiasts claim this “revolution” can be repeated around the world. So could it be that Mr Hefner, despite his obvious commercial interest, was right all along?...
First published in the New Scientist.
(23 February 2012)
Estimates Clash for How Much Natural Gas in the United States
Mason Inman, National Geographic
Natural gas is now flowing so fast into U.S. pipelines that the big question seems to be what to do with it all: Engineer cars to run on methanol? Reopen shuttered chemical plants that rely on gas for feedstock? Export liquefied gas by tanker? With about two-thirds of U.S. states thought to hold natural gas reserves, many take President Barack Obama seriously when he calls the United States the "Saudi Arabia of natural gas."
But just how much natural gas does the United States have?
A close look at the assessments shows that even the experts disagree. Most dramatically, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), the government's own analytical team, last month slashed in half its estimate for a key and large subset of reserves: the amount of gas in shale rock formations across the country.
Although the government's new estimate for total U.S. natural gas resources—2,214 trillion cubic feet (tcf)—is a third higher than its 2008 estimate, the shale gas markdown underscores the uncertainties around this new supply source. In an interview with National Geographic News, the EIA has offered a sneak preview of the more detailed explanation it will publish in April on why its shale gas estimate plummeted.
But with other geologists convinced that EIA's new numbers are too conservative, it is certain that there will be plenty of debate ahead on the size of the energy windfall from shale gas...
(29 February 2012)
Part of National Geographic's Great Energy Challenge series.
The Big Fracking Bubble: The Scam Behind the Gas Boom
Jeff Goodell, Rolling Stone
Aubrey McClendon, America's second-largest producer of natural gas, has never been afraid of a fight. He has become a billionaire by directing his company, Chesapeake Energy, to blast apart gas-soaked rocks a mile underground and pump the fuel to the surface. "We're the biggest frackers in the world," he declares proudly over a $400 bottle of French Bordeaux at a restaurant he co-owns in his hometown of Oklahoma City. "We frack all the time. What's the big deal?"...
According to Arthur Berman, a respected energy consultant in Texas who has spent years studying the industry, Chesapeake and its lesser competitors resemble a Ponzi scheme, overhyping the promise of shale gas in an effort to recoup their huge investments in leases and drilling. When the wells don't pay off, the firms wind up scrambling to mask their financial troubles with convoluted off-book accounting methods. "This is an industry that is caught in the grip of magical thinking," Berman says. "In fact, when you look at the level of debt some of these companies are carrying, and the questionable value of their gas reserves, there is a lot in common with the subprime mortgage market just before it melted down." Like generations of energy kingpins before him, it would seem, McClendon's primary goal is not to solve America's energy problems, but to build a pipeline directly from your wallet into his...
(1 March 2012)
Poland May Cut Shale Gas Estimates After Data From Wells
Marek Strzelecki, Bloomberg
Poland’s estimated shale gas reserves, believed to be the largest in Europe, may be cut once data is analyzed from the country’s first wells, the Polish Geological Institute said.
“Core logs from Polish wells are being analyzed with the help of U.S. technology,” Miroslaw Rutkowski, a spokesman for the institute, said by phone. “As result, we’re expecting that our estimates will be lower than those of the EIA,” he said, in a reference to the Energy Information Administration.
Drilling horizontal wells and using so-called hydraulic fracturing to open fissures in shale rock has made the U.S. the world’s largest gas producer. While Poland was identified as the European country with the best shale-gas potential, initial results from drillers including Exxon Mobil Corp. and 3Legs Resources Plc have disappointed.
(1 March 2012)
China claims world’s biggest shale gas reserves
Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, The Daily Telegraph
China is planning an investment blitz to unlock its vast reserves of shale gas, convinced it can match the energy revolution under way in the US and meet a significant part of its fast-growing fuel needs.
The resources ministry said on Thursday that preliminary surveys showed the country had explorable shale-gas reserves of 25.1 trillion cubic metres, in theory enough to meet China's gas needs for the next two centuries.
This is slightly lower than earlier figures but well ahead of the reduced US estimates of 13.6 trillion cubic metres, down from 23 trillion in earlier studies. The fields are mostly in Sichuan or in sparsely populated regions in the interior...
(1 March 2012)