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  • Bursting Shale Gas Bubbles

    Posted on October 23rd, 2013 Jo No comments

    I am not confident that the American Shale Gas “boom” is as solid as energy analysts describe, so I set out to find some numbers, to try to check my suspicion.

    You know how it is with government websites : lots of webpages with little intelligence to help you navigate them to find out exactly the answers to your questions.

    I was trying to ascertain current American shale gas production data, and I kept finding myself at this webpage on the Energy Information Administration (EIA) website, and this one, too, which only have shale gas production data up until 2011 (just checked it again – still true).

    The only other thing I could see immediately was a computer model of USA Natural Gas production until 2040, Figure 91 on Page 79 of the Annual Energy Outlook (AEO) for 2013, and also on the website, at this webpage, where I could download the data from the model run. On Page 118 of the downloadable AEO, it indicated that the most recent real data was from the year 2011 :-

    “Figure 91. Natural gas production by source, 1990-2040: History: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Natural Gas Annual 2011, DOE/EIA-0131(2011) (Washington, DC, January 2013). Projections: AEO2013 National Energy Modeling System, run REF2013.D102312A.”

    I was unable to find any more recent data, although I knew it had to be captured, so I emailed the EIA to ask for help, and they said that more recent data on Shale Gas production was to be found here, at the bottom of the page with the chart “Monthly dry shale gas production”.

    The first thing of note is that only three shale gas regions or “plays” are still showing rising production – the Marcellus, Eagle Ford and a smidgen in the Bakken.

    The second thing of note is that the actual production of shale gas is higher than the projection from the Annual Energy Outlook for 2013 (based on 2011 data) :-

    Actual (average for the period 1st July 2012 to 30th June 2013) : 28.01 Bcf/d
    AEO 2013 Figure 91 model (average for 2012 and 2013) : 22.92 Bcf/d

    The third thing to note is the slowdown in the growth of shale gas production as a whole, tending to zero in maybe a few years time, whilst the AEO 2013 Figure 91 model projects continuing low figure percentages for growth in shale gas production. This model probably has an underlying assumption that new drilling for shale gas will take place.

    The fourth thing to note is where the AEO 2013 Figure 91 model expects significant growth to occur in Natural Gas production – Tight Gas – starting around 2016, Alaska starting in around 2024, offshore around 2030 and 2040, and Coalbed Methane starting in 2035.

    Conclusion : the EIA does not anticipate major growth trends in shale gas production in their projections – step change is expected from elsewhere.

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