Sunday, April 03, 2011
Back in those years, Mr. Mitchell's company was contracted to deliver a substantial amount of natural gas from Texas to feed a pipeline serving Chicago. But the reserves on which he depended were running down, and it was not at all clear where he could find more gas to replace the depleting supply. Mr. Mitchell had a strong hunch, however, piqued by a geology report that he had read recently.
In an interview with David Wessel, Daniel Yergin, author of "The Prize," states that the turmoil in the Middle East is a "sea change" for the global oil market and that the U.S. and emerging markets are most economically vulnerable to rising oil prices.
Perhaps the natural gas that was locked into shale—a dense sedimentary rock—could be freed and made to flow. He was prepared to back up his hunch with investment. The laboratory for his experiment was a sprawling geologic formation called the Barnett Shale around Dallas and Fort Worth. Almost everyone with whom he worked was skeptical, including his own geologists and engineers. "You're wasting your money," they told him over the years. But Mr. Mitchell kept at it.
The payoff came a decade and a half later, at the end of the 1990s. Using a specialized version of a technique called hydraulic fracturing (now widely known as "fracking" or "fracing"), his team found an economical way to create or expand fractures in the rock and to get the trapped gas to flow.
Today, in an age that craves innovation in energy, George Mitchell's breakthrough in the Barnett Shale has opened the door to a potentially profound change in the global energy equation...
But shale has changed the equation. Abundant, relatively low-priced supplies now make natural gas a highly competitive alternative to both nuclear and wind power and even to coal generation. It has the added advantage of being relatively low-carbon (though even natural gas will be constrained if the U.S. adopts a policy similar to the European Union's objective of an 80% reduction in carbon emissions by 2050)."
That is as good a single article as there is about shale gas. The U.S. Department of Energy’s April 2009 report, “Modern Shale Gas Development in the United States: A Primer,” stated that at 2007 U.S. natural gas production rates of about 19.3 Tcf, the current recoverable resource estimate provides enough natural gas to supply the US for the next 90 years. Separate estimates of the shale gas resource extend this supply to 116 years. Production of shale gas is expected to increase from a 2007 US total of 1.4 Tcf to 4.8 Tcf in 2020. This is not unique to the US though they, being a high tech country, are ahead of the curve in finding this.
So peak gas is not a problem. Since gas and oil are both hydrocarbons, the gases having lower boiling points because they are shorter chain molecules, it would be perfectly possible to either use the gas in cars and planes or refine gas into petrol. So no peak oil at all.
We are incredibly lucky in nature's bounty, though it would be and was useless without the technological breakthrough that enabled its extraction. I would say we are unlucky in having governments "constrained" to produce artificial shortages but we put up with such parasites.
Scotland, which has a large geographic area for our population and far larger coastal waters, is likely to have considerably more than our share. Whether our numptocracy will prevent us benefiting is another matter:
"total world shale reserves at more than 16,000trillion cu ft. The distribution included 509 in Western Europe, 627 in the FSU, 2,547 in the Middle East and 3,526 in China. Total OECD annual gas use is 50TCF, of which the UK has 2.5TCF.
That’s one heck of a lot of gas and, according to Tony Hayward – the chap who now runs BP – “There has been a revolution in the gas fields of North America. Reserve estimates are rising sharply as technology unlocks unconventional resources”. ...
Reports suggest there is also shale gas in Hungary and Poland, and closer to home, there are suggestions that shale gas could well exist both onshore and offshore in the southern UK and perhaps even in Scotland’s Central Belt, which was the birthplace of shale-oil extraction in the 1800s. Remember James “Paraffin” Young?"