Drill, Baby, Drill: Can Unconventional Fuels Usher in a New Era of Energy Abundance?

March 15, 2013

In this landmark report, J. David Hughes from Post Carbon Institute takes a far-ranging and painstakingly researched look at the prospects for various unconventional fuels to provide energy abundance for the United States in the 21st Century. While the report examines a range of energy sources, the centerpiece of “Drill, Baby, Drill” is a critical analysis of shale gas and shale oil (tight oil) and the potential of a shale “revolution.”

From the Executive Summary:

World energy consumption has more than doubled since the energy crises of the 1970s, and more than 80 percent of this is provided by fossil fuels. In the next 24 years world consumption is forecast to grow by a further 44 percent—and U.S. consumption a further seven percent—with fossil fuels continuing to provide around 80 percent of total demand.

Where will these fossil fuels come from? There has been great enthusiasm recently for a renaissance in the production of oil and natural gas, particularly for the United States. Starting with calls in the 2008 presidential election to “drill, baby, drill!,” politicians and industry leaders alike now hail “one hundred years of gas” and anticipate the U.S. regaining its crown as the world’s foremost oil producer. Much of this optimism is based on the application of technologies like hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) and horizontal drilling to previously inaccessible shale reservoirs, and the development of unconventional sources such as tar sands and oil shale. Globally there is great hope for vast increases in oil production from under developed regions such as Iraq.

However, the real challenges—and costs—of 21st century fossil fuel production suggest that such vastly increased supplies will not be easily achieved or even possible. The geological and environmental realities of trying to fulfill these exuberant proclamations deserve a closer look…

Published Feb 2013.

Tags: Shale gas, Shale Oil

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