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Is shale running short on ‘PowerBars’?

Zain Shauk, Fuelfix
North America may be in the midst of an energy renaissance, but that could be slowed or derailed by several limitations, including nature.

While shale plays and oil sands fields have multiplied North American oil production, a labor shortage, regulations and geology continue to present hurdles for the industry, speakers at the IHS Energy CERAWeek conference said Friday at the Hilton Americas-Houston.

For example, in any given shale play, between 3 percent and 9 percent of the acreage holds the most profitable and productive wells, said Raoul LeBlanc, managing director of onshore oil industry research for IHS.

LeBlanc compared productive underground reserves to nutrient-dense snacks.

“You have PowerBars and popcorn in your pantry,” LeBlanc said. “Right now we’re eating the PowerBars. And at some point, the PowerBars will run out.”…
(7 March 2014)

Here’s where all the US shale oil and gas wells are – map

David Wogan, Scientific American
Post Carbon Institute has an incredibly detailed (and gorgeous!) map of all US shale oil and gas wells (they count 63,000 through June 2012 using data from Drilling Info). I’ve embedded it below so you can get lost in the crazy amount of detail:

(14 March 2014)

Oil and gas majors now cutting back in U.S. shale gas fields

Robert Magyar, The Examiner
Yesterday Chesapeake Energy, the second largest U.S. based oil and gas company, filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission to sell off its oilfield services unit which does the majority of the company’s oil and gas exploration, hydraulic fracking and drilling. Stung with high costs and mired in more than $20 billion in debt on its U.S. shale operations, the company continues to sell off billions in its assets base as it struggles to right itself. Its actions follow a developing trend of cutbacks, spin- offs, divestures and write downs for oil and gas majors operating in U.S. shale formations. In the last 10 days, British Petroleum, Chevron, ExxonMobil and Royal Dutch Shell have all announced they will be spending less on oil and gas exploration in the U.S. Allen Brooks, Managing Director of Parks Paton Hoepfl & Brown, an independent Houston, Texas based investment banking firm, stated yesterday, “Chevron is the latest major oil company to implicitly declare that the oil industry has entered a new era – one marked by higher costs and more disciplined capital investment programs,”…
(18 March 2014)

Are we fit to frack?

RSPB, Angling Trust, National Trust, WWT, Wildlife Trust
Poorly regulated fracking risks harming threatened species and polluting our waterways. As a partnership of leading conservation charities we came together to understand how serious these risks are and asked the question ‘are we fit to frack?’

We found that commercial-scale fracking, which requires considerable development across the countryside, would threaten wildlife and the water environment in a range of ways and that Government policy to address these risks was not fit for purpose.

Over the coming years, major decisions will be made that will determine whether commercial extraction of shale gas will take place in the UK, how and on what scale. These decisions could have significant impacts on our countryside, wildlife and the climate.

As a partnership of leading conservation charities, we have come together to reach an evidence-based understanding of these environmental impacts and to make recommendations for how negative impacts can be avoided or at least minimised.

The report contains ten recommendations for making fracking safer as the Government continues its push to get companies to apply for licences to explore and drill for shale gas…
Link to Executive Summary
Link to full report

(20 March 2014)

Fracking: the surprising new proving ground for water technologies

Martin LaMonica, The Guardian
Big advancements in wastewater treatment could be coming from an unexpected source: the oil and gas industry.

The growth of fracking brings with it a heavy demand for water, and that’s straining water supplies, often in drought-prone areas. The conflict over water has fueled adoption of new water reuse and recycling techniques, making the fracking market a valuable new proving ground for these technologies – which could later be used in other industries, experts say.

Competition over water between different industries – and the prospect of regulations on use – has pushed oil and gas drillers to invest in on-site water treatment, says Christopher Robart, a partner at PacWest Consulting Partners, which tracks about 100 water companies serving the oil and gas industry. These well-heeled industrial companies have created an environment to stress-test water treatment technologies that might have withered in the lab or never been deployed at scale…
(17 March 2014)

Why Your Next Plastic Bottle Will Be Made From Shale Gas

Tina Casey, Cleantechnica
Even as more signs emerge that the natural gas bubble is heading for a colossal bust, Exxon Mobil shale gas is officially a thing. The company plunged into the shale gas market in 2010 with the acquisition of XTO Energy and weirdly enough, the recent drop in gas prices only seems to have whetted its appetite for more. Rumors are flying that Exxon Mobil is set to buy out mega-giant shale gas developer Chesapeake Energy, and in the mean time Exxon Mobil has announced that it will expand its Baytown, Texas chemical facility to convert natural gas to polyethylene, the world’s most common plastic.

It might look like the decision-makers at Exxon Mobil are off their collective rockers, but it seems to us that they have an end game. As competition in the fuel market heats up from solar and wind energy, Exxon Mobil is tapping into a huge non-fuel market for natural gas with the Baytown gas-to-plastic expansion… (17 March 2014)

US energy boom demands $641B in infrastructure, study finds

Jennifer A. Dlouhy, Fuelfix
Companies will need to invest $641 billion over the next two decades in pipelines, pumps and other infrastructure to keep up with the gas, crude oil and natural gas liquids flowing from U.S. fields, according to a study released Tuesday.

The analysis, prepared by ICF International for two natural gas advocacy groups, predicts that $30 billion worth of new midstream infrastructure will be needed each year through 2035 — essentially triple the $10 billion in average annual investments over the past decade.

“We’re in a heavy growth period right now, said Kevin Petak, an economist with ICF who authored the study. “The next six years appears to be a pretty heavy period for expenditure and investment.”..
(18 March 2014)

Checkmate for cheap unconventional gas

John Dizard, Financial Times
Unconventional gas is not a miracle; it is a high-cost source of fuel that requires a lot of technical skill, time and capital…
(21 March 2014)

Oil well safety warning for fracking

James Morgan, BBC
Plans to expand shale gas "fracking" in the UK must learn from leaks and poor monitoring at existing onshore oil and gas sites, scientists say.

A review of 2,152 wells drilled from 1902-2013 found up to 100 "orphaned" wells for which no firm is responsible.

Only two cases of well "failure" were recorded, but legacy sites are not monitored for leaks, the authors note.

The study led by ReFINE (Researching Fracking in Europe) is published in the journal Marine and Petroleum Geology.

It is perhaps the most comprehensive review yet of Britain’s inland oil and gas legacy – pulling together scientific papers, government reports, and industry data.

The long-term stability of wells and the risk of pollution are key considerations if the coalition pushes ahead with plans to expand the shale gas industry as a "driver" for the UK economy…
(25 March 2014)