The Arguments for and Against Shale Oil and Gas Developments

The energy debate is full of controversy. Whether it is about the pros and cons of renewable energy, nuclear power or fossil fuels (FF) there are a range of arguments made on either side. If it was clear cut which arguments were best, there would be no controversy to discuss. And so it is the case with shale developments, some strongly in favour, some violently opposed. How are we going to solve our energy crisis?

[This article was invited by the Australian Institute of Geoscientists where it was published earlier this month, although it has yet to appear on line.]

The concept of energy crisis has entered the psyche of many in the developed world. Do we understand the origins of this crisis? In fact, is there an energy crisis at all? You only need to read the introduction to David MacKay’s gold plated book, “Sustainable Energy Without the Hot Air” to learn that there are in fact two flavours of energy crisis at large. The first is the one that is in the press and in the minds of many politicians and that is the legal imperative for many countries to reduce their carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions relative to the value of 1990. The second is peak oil, where a version of that reality sent oil prices sky rocketing from $20 to $150 / barrel in the period 2002 to 2008, settling back to about $110 / barrel (Brent) in the post financial crash recovery. The rise in oil prices dragged the price of most other major energy sources up with it, and it is this real world rise in energy prices that concerns the “man on the street” in most OECD countries, while the authorities are pre-occupied with cutting emissions.

Overlaid upon this real world rise in energy prices, the result of demand rising more rapidly than supply, has been the bizzare behavior of OECD governments seeking to implement strategies to curtail the use of FF when naturally high prices were already doing the job. The two strands of strategy – CO2 emissions reduction and peak oil (which has morphed into the euphemism called energy security) have become complexly intertwined. And it is against this sketch of the global energy system that we must measure the pros and cons of shale oil and gas developments.

The shale oil and gas “miracle” of the USA  was not inspired by the Green movement’s desire to reduce global CO2 emissions. It was inspired by the ‘drill baby drill’ mantra designed to reduce US dependence on imported FF, mainly oil. And boy, has this strategy worked (Figure 1). But at what cost? And is it a robust long term solution? Shale sceptics point to the high decline rates of shale wells and the fact that much of the shale industry has been financed by mounting levels of debt. Indeed, until the extreme cold winter of 2013/14 pushed demand for gas higher and prices with it, much of the shale gas produced in the USA was produced at a loss [1, 2]. Over supply of course does not undermine the viability of shale gas, in fact, over supply is more a sign of abundance.

Figure 1 The chart produced by James Hamilton [3] shows crude oil production in the USA according to area and type in million of barrels per day. The long-term decline following the 1970 peak was interrupted by the addition of Alaska in the 1980s. More recently the addition of tight oil (shale oil) has had a spectacular impact. Tight oil production will peak one day, the question is at what production level and when? When US tight oil production does peak US production will most probably carry on down although onshore production from the lower 48 states has stabilised in response to high oil prices. Note that BP report US crude+condensate+NGL production at 10.0 million bpd in 2013. This chart based on EIA data is showing crude oil only.

Time lags between drilling shale wells and fracking them and further time lags to hooking production to a pipeline makes it difficult to analyse the US drilling statistics. But post 2008 crash there has been a huge migration of rigs away from drilling shale gas to drilling shale liquids in the Bakken and Eagle Ford plays (Figure 2). Since 2012, US gas production has been maintained with 400 drilling units, down from  a pre-crash peak of 1600 units. It still remains to be seen if 400 drilling units are sufficient to maintain production long-term.

Figure 2 In 2008 the USA had roughly 1600 rigs drilling for gas and 400 rigs drilling for oil. Following the 2008 financial crash there has been a major adjustment with about 1400 rigs drilling for oil and 400 drilling for gas. Gas production is on a plateau since there is currently nowhere for additional production to go. Presumably the 400 rigs drilling shale gas are sufficient to maintain the 2.6 TCF per month plateau for the time being. For comparison, in 2013 there were around 135 rigs operational in Europe and 246 rigs in the Asia Pacific region. A large part of the shale success in the USA is down to the application of American muscle.

The USA achieved self sufficiency in gas and is perhaps marching towards self sufficiency in oil (Figure 1) with relative ease, although massive drilling resources were brought to bear (Figure 2). This is the key argument in favour of shale gas developments. Shale can provide energy security and jobs and create individual wealth, in the USA at least, where land owners also own the mineral rights. This latter point is fundamental to the success of the US industry. Land owners want companies to  drill for and discover  resources on their land, it may make them rich. In a country like the UK, those living on the land see only potential risks from drilling shale, few, if any personal benefits and individuals are therefore inclined to object to drilling.

Fracking Concerns

So what are these public concerns in Europe?  And where does a country like Australia stand? Concerns come under five main headings:

1. Seismic activity associated with fracking appears to be a reality and actually halted activity on one of the UK’s first wells before it could be completed. I believe that individuals who live above and perhaps own property on land above fracking operations have a right to be concerned if the fracking sets off minor earth tremors. To what extent tremors represent a real risk to life and property is hard to judge. I suspect that minor tremors will turn out to be harmless. Equally, it is difficult to judge if tremors should be allowed to halt shale exploration activity. This is really an issue that requires objective judgement from professionals working in the Geological Surveys of the countries in question.

2. Ground water contamination is another legitimate concern that again needs to be evaluated on a case by case basis. Contamination concerns arise from drilling operations and from “fugitive gas” that is mobilised by fracking operations. In the Marcellus Shale play in Pennsylvania, one study has shown higher methane concentrations in drinking water wells that lie close to fracked wells [4].  Ground water contamination first and foremost needs to be assessed on the basis of whether or not a well penetrates  drinking water aquifers and if it does that the appropriate arrangements are made to ensure that contamination does not occur during drilling. Protecting aquifers from fugitive methane is a different issue that is more difficult to control if it takes place. But the risk needs to be properly assessed. A small but measurable rise in methane, whilst undesirable, does not necessarily represent a hazard.

3. Disposal of drilling and fracking fluids that may contain a range of chemical substances is a further source of environmental concern. Dealing with this issue has become routine in the USA and can be dealt with appropriately in other countries, so long as an appropriate regulatory regime is in place.

4. Disruption during drilling and pipe laying activities is a further source of concern. In large parts of the USA, that are sparsely populated wide open spaces, this concern has tended to be less relevant but in more densely populated areas like Pennsylvania and rural England larger numbers of people become impacted by hundreds of truck loads of materials and the influx of workers. Some will view this increased economic activity as a benefit, for example the local pub owner, while others may view it as a scourge, for example the couple newly retired to a cottage in the country.

5. Fugitive methane from fracking operations adding to atmospheric green house gasses. Fracking is designed to release methane or liquid hydrocarbons from tight rock. The idea is oil or gas may flow through fractures into the wells drilled to produce them. But they may also be released into natural fault zones that connect to the surface and be released to the atmosphere instead.

How does an individual or a community weigh all of these risks? On the one hand we need energy supplies to power industry and to keep us warm and comfortable and on the other a range of potentially negative outcomes that may affect some more than others. One way to look at the negative outcomes is to appreciate that the production of conventional oil and gas may lead to seismic activity (for example in northern Holland [5]); drilling conventional oil and gas wells has the potential to contaminate ground water supplies; drilling fluids from conventional wells need to be disposed of in an environmentally benign way; conventional drilling may lead to disruption; and, oil and gas are continually leaking naturally from the surface of the Earth into the oceans and atmosphere without our assistance and without our noticing.

The discussion around shale developments, therefore, boils down to the scale and intensity of that activity. Shale wells tend to require significantly more men, machines and materials to drill than conventional wells and well productivity is normally much lower compared with wells drilled into a newly discovered conventional oil and gas province. The trouble that the OECD is facing is that targets for profitable conventional drilling are getting fewer and further between and oil and gas field declines have been taking production ever downwards for many years. Shale developments, even though they are less productive, have offered a way of increasing production, but it has meant drilling thousands and thousands of wells. Thus, individually, each of the negative outcomes with shale drilling may apply equally to conventional drilling, it is the greatly increased intensity of drilling activity associated with shale developments that is the legitimate cause for concern of populations living in shale development areas. In the USA, the flow of wealth into these areas has tempered the concerns of the incumbent populations and there must surely be lessons to be learned there.

No such thing as a free lunch in energy

A popular theme of mine is that there is no such thing as a free lunch in the energy world. OECD societies and economies, and increasingly developing economies, owe their existence and prosperity to the energy derived from fossil fuels and to a lesser extent nuclear and hydroelectric power [6]. The citizens and governments of these countries need to learn and understand the basic fact that it is affordable energy and not money that provides succour for commerce and citizens alike and that no matter what we do there will be a price to pay for the benefits of harvesting energy from Earth. If it is not going to be shale developments then it will have to be something else.

The super concentrated, super giant FF resources of 100 years ago are depleted and as time has marched on Man has been forced to use progressively less concentrated, lower grade resources than in the past with the inevitable consequence that the foot print of that exploitation has increased. First the tar sands and now shale are the latest manifestation of this march towards less and less concentrated energy.

It is against this backdrop that individual countries or states need to make a decision about whether or not they wish exploit the possible shale resources that may lie deeply buried beneath the surface. Herein lies the crux of the debate for society. It is often the case that it is of strategic importance that a country may need to secure affordable supplies of energy for its people whilst it may be a small minority of those people that may object to and obstruct the development of a resource to the detriment of the whole society. Governments and citizens must realise that if it is not to be shale then it will have to be something else. At present nuclear power offers the only viable alternative way of providing electricity, heat and light in countries faced with growing competition for FF supplies.

CO2 Emissions

The account given above of the localised negative aspects of shale development does not take into account the global perspective of CO2 emissions and potential impact upon Earth’s climate. And it is here that the shale debate meets a great climate change paradox. The warming community, be they climate scientists or government agencies have some how reached the conclusion that burning natural gas, albeit shale gas, is good, in which they actually mean it is preferable in their analysis than burning coal. This is because the C-H bonds of methane liberate much less (about 50% of) CO2 per TWh of electricity produced than burning the C-C bonds of coal.

This boils down to the rate of CO2 emissions production. Burning gas slows the rate but not the ultimate amount of emissions. To meet politically set emissions reduction targets burning methane is preferable to coal. But to reduce the ultimate amount of total emissions, burning shale gas is absolutely the last thing any government proclaiming climate concern should contemplate since this introduces to the global FF budget a whole new slab of fossil carbon to burn. This sends one clear message. Climate science and the energy policies based upon it is totally confused. It is confused because it is based upon flawed science.

Australia

And so to conclude I want to try and place some of the foregoing complex web of considerations into an Australian context. Australia is one of the world’s big energy producers and exporters. According to BP 2014 the Australian energy balance sheet was as follows:

Figure 3 In 2013 Australia exported the equivalent of 217 million tonnes of oil. Shale gas developments in a country like Australia, that have a perceived negative impact upon some of the country’s population, would in my opinion be difficult to justify, since Australia has no burning need for more gas. Shale oil developments should perhaps be viewed differently since an argument can be made that increasing oil production may enhance Australia’s energy security.

In 2013, Australia had net exports of 217 Mtoe. There is a complex set of arguments to be made around CO2 emissions accountability linked to the production and export of FF that I do not wish to go into in this article. It suffices to say that Australia exports large quantities of CO2 and has set in motion legislation to abolish the 2011 Clean Energy Act and associated carbon tax [7].

It is worth noting that Australia has significant oil imports whilst exporting significant volumes of gas and this I believe should have bearing on the shale debate in Australia. Liquids developments are arguably more important for national security than gas and should accordingly be viewed more favourably by the population and by government.

Conclusions

1) A human population of 7 billion and the level of technological development many of those 7 billion enjoy is derived from the fact that we harvest energy from Earth and doing so always carries costs. The future course of our energy system must weigh the benefits of having access to sufficient supplies of affordable energy against these costs.

2) Shale oil and gas developments in populated rural and urban areas may lead to legitimate concerns among those populations that should not be ignored or over ruled. There are ways to negotiate an acceptance for vital resource exploitation.

3) There is no universal answer to the shale development and fracking question.

References

[1] Breaking Energy: Ken Medlock, Senior Director of Rice University’s Baker Institute Center for Energy Studies
[2] Energy Matters: What is the real cost of shale gas?
[3] James Hamilton on EconoMonitor: Keeping Oil Production From Falling
[4] Increased stray gas abundance in a subset of drinking water wells near Marcellus shale gas extraction
[5] Earthquakes Force NAM to Reduce Gas Production from Groningen Field
[6] Energy Matters: Energy and Mankind part 3
[7] Promise check: Abolish the carbon tax

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25 Responses to The Arguments for and Against Shale Oil and Gas Developments

  1. Willem Post says:

    Ian,
    Regarding the large footprint of the new energy sources and their much higher investment and production costs, a.k.a., renewables, here is an article comparing the ratios of “lifecycle energy out/lifecycle in” of various energy sources which may be of interest.

    The article shows the ratios for renewables are very low compared with those of fossil and nuclear and hydro.
    http://theenergycollective.com/barrybrook/471651/catch-22-energy-storage#comment-152216

    • Euan Mearns says:

      Willem, here’s a rather famous chart I made many years ago now, based upon work of Charles Hall and Nate Hagens. It illustrates the nature of the ERoEI problem and why 7 is a “magic number”.

      The article you link to is good and is a step in the right direction but does not go far enough. I think penalising ERoEI for energy storage is a fair enough approach, but we have already decided that storage is not scalable. And so the ERoEI of renewables should really be penalised for the provision of balancing services and back up.

      The ERoEI for gas and coal should also be penalised for thermal losses in power plants, I’m not sure if that is done.

      You’ll see the nuclear number I have on here is ridiculously low compared with that quoted in your link (75). I’m a bit cynical about the waste storage argument feeling that the anti-nuclear lobby has prevented this problem being solved so that it can continue to be used as an argument against nuclear power.

      • roberto says:

        ” I’m a bit cynical about the waste storage argument feeling that the anti-nuclear lobby has prevented this problem being solved so that it can continue to be used as an argument against nuclear power.”

        Plenty of examples come to mind… like the director of the prestigious Brookhaven National Lab in Long Island, NY, forced to resign under the pressure of the “environmentalists” complaining that the lab he was heading did not declare the emission of a quantity of radioactive tritium smaller than the tritium used to make street signs glare at night!… or the famous case of the salt mine in Germany which the green propaganda calls an environmental disaster… actually the amount of radioisotopes which have escaped the said salt mine is so small that it is difficult to explain in simple terms to the layman what it is all about.
        The best example is the saga of Yucca Mountain repository, which has gone nowhere after decades of research and investment… thanks to the “environmentalists'” concern…

        R.

  2. Ralph W says:

    I would answer that there is a third aspect to the global energy situation that is approaching crisis levels, and that is energy return on energy invested. This in practice gets more or less reflected in the price of energy, and the 5 fold rise in the cost of oil in the last 12 years equates more or less to the real rise in the resource cost of keeping 75Mbpd of oil flowing out of the ground. As the easy to extract sources of oil are drained, the more and more resource intensive sources are then tapped. This is a real drain on the global economy, as oil is still the single largest and most dense , stable and transportable energy source available to industrial civilization. In the short term, this higher real cost is constraining the rate of growth of the global economy, but as the costs keep rising, and the EROEI of the other fossil energy sources also decline, it will constrain growth to zero, and then negative values. At that point the global economy and financial system will become unsustainable, and unstable, leading to stair step declines.

    In this context, shale oil is a very minor detail. Shale oil is very light – in fact it is so light it is sometimes classified as condensate and not crude oil at all, and as such it is more a poor quality substitute rather an addition to the global oil supply, like bioethanol. Also the high energy and resource costs of fracking means it has low EROEI, and will not prevent or even measurably delay the above scenario. I am not even convinced that it is not accelerating the approaching energy crisis by using high quality oil products like diesel to make lower quality oil products, ie. condensate. It is certainly a distraction from the key transition we face, which is to redesign society to be sustainable using the lower EROEI energy sources that will be available to us in the medium term future. which by definition means renewable energy flows.

    • Willem Post says:

      Ralph,
      You are right. The sooner the world pivots from fossil fuels the better. It will take about 100 years and many trillions of dollars worldwide, as fossil fuels ramps down, other sources ramp up.

      You are not mentioning the very high “energy out/energy in” ratio of nuclear energy. It would be absurd for the world not to maximize its potential.

      Regarding renewables, their very low “energy out/energy in” ratios means very large areas of land are required and very high investments in grids and generating capacity, MW, to produce energy, MWh, at 3 – 4 times REAL costs, c/kWh, c/Btu, i.e., not the artificially low costs due to high subsidies.
      http://theenergycollective.com/barrybrook/471651/catch-22-energy-storage

      The current subsidy levels are unsustainable at higher levels of RE.

      Only RICH countries, such as Germany, can afford the costs; in Germany, there is much discussion/hand wringing regarding the competitive position of its energy intensive industries.

      • Ralph W says:

        The irony of Germany is that its single largest industrial sector is in building cars and vehicles running on fossil fuels, that are built to such a high standard that ones built today will probably run out of fuel to drive them before they wear out. I’m not sure that makes Germany a sustainable society.

        The oil major companies are already cutting back on Capex spending so we are likely to see global peak oil production certainly before the end of the decade.

        My personal opinion is that nuclear power has a lot lower EROEI than many think, if you take into account the full lifecycle costs, including decommissioning and safe waste disposal. However, it is hard to come up with exact figures because no one has come up with and implemented safe disposal of nuclear waste yet. I suspect that it will exceed the energy cost of building and operating the reactors themselves, and it needs to be spent after the reactors have finished producing any energy at all, ie entirely from renewable or sustainable sources. I am 100% certain that industrial society will collapse before existing existing waste stockpiles are made safe against even 1000 years of natural decay following abandonment. I have no wish to add to the problem.

        • roberto says:

          “My personal opinion is that nuclear power has a lot lower EROEI than many think, if you take into account the full lifecycle costs, including decommissioning and safe waste disposal. ”

          Well, your opinion is obviously yours and nobody has the right to change it, but I can assure you that it is absolutely and demonstrably wrong… it is the COSTS of the decommissioning which SEEM very high, the ENERGY costs of the last phase of the nuclear cycle are minor, orders of magnitude lower than the energy generated during the life of the reactors.
          And the costs are high only in absolute numbers… I’ve read somewhere that the cost of the French final waste storage may end up costing 30 billion Euros!… WOW! 30 billions!… that’s a humongous amount of money, right?… well actually not at all… because 63 GWe at 75% capacity factor for 40 years (i.e. even without life extension) would mean almost 22 thousand billion kWh… i.e; an extra cost of 30/22,000=0.137 cEuro/kWh… to be compared with the MORE than 30 cEUro/kWh of the “cheap” german PV.

          “He/she who refuses to do the math is doomed to talk nonsense” – J. McCarthy

          R.

        • roberto says:

          “I am 100% certain that industrial society will collapse before existing existing waste stockpiles are made safe against even 1000 years of natural decay following abandonment. I have no wish to add to the problem.”

          Well, that simply says something about the stability of industrial society, doesn’t it?… it will certainly collapse faster if based on electricity supply which costs 30+ cEuro/kWh, needs backup most of the time, is intermittent and unpredictable with the degree of precision needed by the very industrial society that is supposed to serve… rather than by a technology which generates 24h/24 at fuel costs which are literally “too cheap to meter” (OK, I’m stretching a bit my case, I admit…).

          R.

          • Euan Mearns says:

            I share this sentiment, where Greens would have us follow a route where collapse is inevitable (in fact it is one of their objectives, just that politicians have not awoken to this concept yet) and so we must abandon the one technology that may avert that outcome because the inevitable collapse Green policies lead to makes adopting the cure unethical.

            Circular argument

  3. Euan:

    A few random musings, in no particular order:

    The warming community, be they climate scientists or government agencies have some how reached the conclusion that burning natural gas, albeit shale gas, is good, in which they actually mean it is preferable in their analysis than burning coal … Burning gas slows the rate but not the ultimate amount of emissions. I think I see what you’re getting at, but burning gas instead of coal does in fact cut emissions roughly in half for a given amount of energy production. A few years ago the Sierra Club and some other US NGOs were heavy into using gas as a “bridge fuel” for this reason.

    Shale can provide energy security and jobs and create individual wealth, in the USA at least, where land owners also own the mineral rights. I think it’s true to state that if you take out shale gas production from US private lands then there is effectively no shale gas production. A lesson there, I think.

    How does an individual or a community weigh all of these risks? I find it curious that after millions of completed fracking operations that so far as I know have caused minimal damage we should now be questioning whether fracking is safe or not.

    EroEI is an important concept, but best of luck getting it across to the world’s current generation of policymakers, most of whom have no idea what “dispatchable” means nor even what the difference is between a kilowatt and a kilowatt-hour.

    • Euan Mearns says:

      Roger, it is not a question of whether or not it is safe but whether or not it is perceived to be safe. In a country like the UK, small tremors associated with fracking will result in mass protest and a halting of operations. And elevated CH4 in ground water that can be linked to thermogenic gas will likewise cause outcry. Part of the problem with high resolution analyses these days. You can measure ppb. 20,000 ppb methane found in drinking water will close down the shale industry. For the non-geochem types here that would be 20 ppm or 0.002%.

      Burning gas instead of coal cuts the rate of emissions. It only reduces ultimate emissions if the coal not burned today is never burned.

      • A somewhat different perspective ….

        Pennsylvania’s shale gas ‘boom’ started in 2008 with a surge in Marcellus drilling activity, yet the amount of Marcellus wells incurring violations accounts for only 22.2% of all oil and gas violations in the state between 2008-2011, according to DEP’s data:

        Despite the focus by environmental groups, citizens, media and legislators on the process of hydraulic fracturing, or ‘fracking’, used to blast apart shale to extract fossil fuel minerals from thousands of feet below the earth’s surface, most of the negative impacts resulting from this extraction occurred before the fracking begins.

        http://www.publicherald.org/archives/15622/investigative-reports/energy-investigations/

  4. A C Osborn says:

    Molten Salt Reactors avoid the problem of Spent Fuel, in fact they run on old Fission spent fuel.
    see this article at WUWT
    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2014/08/27/a-universally-acceptable-and-economical-energy-source/

  5. Joe Public says:

    ” ……….burning natural gas, albeit shale gas, is good, in which they actually mean it is preferable in their analysis than burning coal. This is because the C-H bonds of methane liberate much less (about 50% of) CO2 per TWh of electricity produced than burning the C-C bonds of coal.”

    Let’s also not forget that there are no particulates for burning Nat Gas; Nat Gas will be piped to the point of use, rather than trucked or trained in; and, why waste a premium fuel by burning Nat Gas to produce electricity (at ~ 45% efficiency) when it can be used utilised in homes, offices and factories at >90% efficiency.

    • Euan Mearns says:

      I remain to be convinced that particulate pollution from semi-modern coal plant in rural setting represents a health risk. But burning gas for home heat in a condensing boiler at home certainly makes more sense than burning coal to then use that electricity for electrical home heat.

      One of the biggest obstacles we face is our current built environment. In MacKay’s philosophy we should be using renewable electricity to power heat pumps for home heat. It makes perfect sense. Apart from the cost of ditching your gas boiler (furnace) and installing air source heat pumps and the intermittency issue.

      Not so long ago the UK morphed from a sick, cold open coal fire society to a nat gas society with central heating, every room warm. So revolution is possible. The new revolution must surely be heat pumps powered by nuclear electricity.

  6. Joe Public says:

    “In MacKay’s philosophy we should be using renewable electricity to power heat pumps for home heat. ”

    Would that be Professor David MacKay, FRS, Regius Professor of Engineering, Cambridge?

    The unbiased, super-accurate author of:-

    http://withouthotair.blogspot.co.uk/2014/08/shale-gas-in-perspective.html

    My comments, and Paul Homewood’s posting justify the FRS’s motto ‘Nullius in verba’

    http://notalotofpeopleknowthat.wordpress.com/2014/08/21/wind-farm-footprint-understated-by-prof-mackay/

    • Euan Mearns says:

      Photo: Wytch Farm, on the perimeter of Poole Harbour in Dorset, is the largest onshore oil and gas field in Western Europe. It is located in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The photograph shows the 34-metre-high extended-reach drilling rig, from which boreholes longer than 10 km have been drilled.

      Wytch Farm is actually an offshore field accessed by 10km long horizontals. Groningen in Holland is onshore and is hundreds of times bigger.

      I dare say in his dying days at DECC he was trying to clear the deccs for shale ops. I remain mildly skeptical about shale ops in the UK for the simple reasons that minor tremors and evidence that will be found for ground water contamination will make it impossible for the operators to operate.

      • Dave Rutledge says:

        Hi Euan,

        “I remain mildly skeptical about shale ops in the UK for the simple reasons that minor tremors and evidence that will be found for ground water contamination will make it impossible for the operators to operate.”

        I won’t second-guess your judgment here, but it is ironic that underground coal miners in the UK as a matter of course set aside an allowance for compensating home owners for the damage from the subsidence that inevitably accompanies longwall mining.

        Dave

  7. The shale oil and gas “miracle” of the USA was not inspired by the Green movement’s desire to reduce global CO2 emissions. It was inspired by the ‘drill baby drill’ mantra designed to reduce US dependence on imported FF, mainly oil.

    It was actually inspired by one man – the late George Mitchell – who got the “miracle” started by figuring out how to frack the Barnett shale (with assistance from the US government – credit where credit is due). The Economist says of him “Few businesspeople have done as much to change the world as George Mitchell” and they’re right. Fracking has done a lot more to reduce CO2 emissions than any of the governments or government bureaucracies which for years have been unsuccessfully trying to cut them via legislation have ever done, and at the same time it’s put off for at least a little while the evil day when the world finally runs out of fossil fuels. So let’s hear it for George.

  8. A C Osborn says:

    Off Topic, something you may be interested in. An Alternative Energy System that appears to work quite well for Autos.
    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2739768/The-sports-car-runs-SALTWATER-Vehicle-goes-0-60mph-2-8-seconds-just-approved-EU-roads.html

  9. BAU says:

    Isn’t a lot of US gas also produced from oil or ngl rigs, so “associated gas” ? It’s probably not just those 400 gas rigs.

  10. Charlie Hall says:

    Although it would seem intuitive that the EROI of fracked oil and gas is low in fact where we have been able to measure it (my student Egan Waggoner; Mike Aucott) it is not too different from conventional oil and gas –at least for the sweet spots we are exploiting now. Lack of funding has slowed the publication of this work.

    • Sam Taylor says:

      Charles,

      That’s very interesting, as typically one sees shale oil EROEI quoted as something like 5:1, which is obviously pretty poor. What sort of a value does the research suggest?

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