The US Energy Information Administration, or EIA, regularly updates its estimates for how much oil and gas might be recovered in the future, and at what rate. With the application of new technology from year to year, those estimates generally keep going up. But it’s important to remember that they are just estimates — and the devil is always in the details.
Our guest in this episode is a career geoscientist who has diligently delved into those devilish details. In his new reports, he finds that EIA’s Annual Energy Outlook 2016 seems to significantly overstate how much oil and gas might be recovered using fracking technology, with estimates for shale gas and tight oil production that exceed the estimates for how much of those resources are even technically recoverable. In this extended and technically detailed interview, we discuss EIA’s most recent forecasts and try to understand what’s realistic for future US hydrocarbon production.
Geek rating: 9
Guest: David Hughes is an earth scientist who has studied the energy resources of Canada for four decades, including 32 years with the Geological Survey of Canada as a scientist and research manager. He developed the National Coal Inventory to determine the availability and environmental constraints associated with Canada’s coal resources. As Team Leader for Unconventional Gas on the Canadian Gas Potential Committee, he coordinated the publication of a comprehensive assessment of Canada’s unconventional natural gas potential.
Over the past decade, Hughes has researched, published and lectured widely on global energy and sustainability issues in North America and internationally. Hughes is president of Global Sustainability Research, a consultancy dedicated to research on energy and sustainability issues. He is also a board member of Physicians, Scientists & Engineers for Healthy Energy (PSE Healthy Energy) and is a Fellow of Post Carbon Institute. Hughes contributed to Carbon Shift, an anthology edited by Thomas Homer-Dixon on the twin issues of peak energy and climate change, and his work has been featured in Nature, Canadian Business, Bloomberg, USA Today, as well as other popular press, radio, and television.
On the Web: David Hughes’ page at Post Carbon Institute
Recording date: December 3, 2016
Air date: December 28, 2016
David Hughes, Tight Oil Reality Check, Post Carbon Institute. (Dec 2016)
David Hughes, Shale Gas Reality Check, Post Carbon Institute. (Dec 2016)
Richard Heinberg, David Hughes, “Howling at the USGS’s Wolfcamp Announcement,” Post Carbon Institute. (Dec 1, 2016)
David Hughes, Can Canada Expand Oil and Gas Production, Build Pipelines and Keep Its Climate Change Commitments?, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. (June 2016)
David Hughes, A Clear Look at BC LNG, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. (May 2015)
David Hughes, Drill, Baby, Drill, Post Carbon Institute. (2013)
Chris Nelder, “Oil and gas price forecast for 2014,” SmartPlanet. (Dec 2013)
David Hughes, Drilling California, Post Carbon Institute. (2013)
Chris Nelder, “Monterey Shale isn’t all it’s fracked up to be,” SmartPlanet. (Dec 2013)
David Hughes, Drilling Deeper, Post Carbon Institute. (2014)
Chris Nelder, “Sceptics see the boom about to bust,” Petroleum Economist. (Oct 2014)
David Hughes, Will Natural Gas Fuel America in the 21st Century?, Post Carbon Institute (2011)
Chris Nelder, “Oil majors are whistling past the graveyard,” SmartPlanet. (Mar 2013)
Chris Nelder, “U.S. will not surpass Saudi Arabia’s oil production by 2020,” SmartPlanet. (Nov 2012)
Chris Nelder, “The murky future of U.S. shale gas,” SmartPlanet. (Oct 2012)
Sally Adee, “Finland set to become first country to ban coal use for energy,” New Scientist. (Nov 23, 2016)
Cassie Werber, “Finland is going to ban coal within 14 years,” Quartz. (Nov 25, 2016)
Finnish government climate and energy strategy press release (in Finnish) (Nov 24, 2016)
Kathleen Harris, “Liberals present plan to phase out coal-powered electricity by 2030,” CBC News. (Nov 21, 2016)
Charlotte England, “France to shut down all coal-fired power plants by 2023,” Independent. (Nov 17, 2016)
Robert Walton, “Report: 750 GW of coal scrapped in recent years as fuel declines globally,” Utility Dive. (Nov 16, 2016)
Andy Parker and Oliver Geden, “No fudging on geoengineering,” Nature. (Nov 21, 2016)