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Leaked docs throw doubt on gas prospects - Jun 27

The following articles are excerpted from the NYT Drilling Down series
Link to the associated documents.
See also PCI's recent report Will Natural Gas Fuel America in the 21st Century?


Behind Veneer, Doubt on Future of Natural Gas

Ian Urbina, New York Times
Energy companies have worked hard to promote the idea that natural gas is the fossil fuel of tomorrow, and they have found reliable allies among policy makers in Washington...

In its annual forecasting reports, the United States Energy Information Administration, a division of the Energy Department, has steadily increased its estimates of domestic supplies of natural gas, and investors and the oil and gas industry have repeated them widely to make their case about a prosperous future.

But not everyone in the Energy Information Administration agrees. In scores of internal e-mails and documents, officials within the Energy Information Administration, or E.I.A., voice skepticism about the shale gas industry...
Energy Information Administration employees also explain in e-mails and documents, copies of which were obtained by The New York Times, that industry estimates might overstate the amount of gas that companies can affordably get out of the ground...
(27 June 2011)



S.E.C. Shift Leads to Worries of Overestimation of Reserves

Ian Urbina, New York Times
In 2008, the stocks of many natural gas companies were sinking because of the financial meltdown, recession fears and falling gas prices...

But they began to rebound after a sweeping rule change by the Securities and Exchange Commission, intended to modernize how energy companies report their gas reserves.

As part of that change, the commission acquiesced to industry pressure by giving these companies greater latitude in how they estimated reserves in areas that were not yet drilled...

The rule change was especially helpful to shale gas companies because it approved the use of new technology and modeling techniques that these companies rely on more heavily than traditional oil and gas companies...
(27 June 2011)



Insiders Sound an Alarm Amid a Natural Gas Rush

Ian Urbina, New York Times
Natural gas companies have been placing enormous bets on the wells they are drilling, saying they will deliver big profits and provide a vast new source of energy for the United States.

But the gas may not be as easy and cheap to extract from shale formations deep underground as the companies are saying, according to hundreds of industry e-mails and internal documents and an analysis of data from thousands of wells.

In the e-mails, energy executives, industry lawyers, state geologists and market analysts voice skepticism about lofty forecasts and question whether companies are intentionally, and even illegally, overstating the productivity of their wells and the size of their reserves. Many of these e-mails also suggest a view that is in stark contrast to more bullish public comments made by the industry, in much the same way that insiders have raised doubts about previous financial bubbles...
(25 June 2011)

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