Friday 19 April 2013

What came/comes out of the Shale/Tight gas/oil Miracle/Mirage?

A lot of hot air has been blown into the bubble called shale oil (often actually tight oil) miracle. The basic argument has been that soon the US will surpass that of Saudi Arabia as oil produces (and perhaps even exporter) due to non-conventional oil reserves and "advances in oil recovery technology".
Well, most of that is of course pure poppycock. Bakken and other US tight oil / shale formations are estimated to peak at around 2017:

The fracking miracle whis has greated the natural gas boom in United States is real, but with devastating environmental costs and unsustainable resource base. That is, it destroys groundwater resources, pollutes land and uses up more land these days in the active states than is used for wheat or corn production.

Further, unconventional resources always peak faster and once peaked, will decline extremely rapidly year-by-year, much faster than the old conventional resource bases that we got used to. This will create a frantic and increasing rate of drilling - a marathon to the death in order to just basically stand still (i.e. to stay even at the current level of production, not to say meet growing demand). That is not a miracle nor is it a future anybody in the fossil fuel industry hopes for. It's a race to the bottom.

Good resources on this issue is a fairly recent write up by Randy Udall titled 'The shale phenomenon: fabulous miracle with a fatal flaw' (2013), the Tullett Prebon report 'The Perfect Storm' (2012) and Chris Nelder's recent post on Smart Planet blog (2013).

Robert Hirsch - Nexus of Energy & Risk in the 21st Century

Presentation by Dr. Robert Hirsch on Peak oil and likely consequences from November 2012.

Some teasers:

There you have it. Nothing's changed. We are still on plateau. Price is still on an oscillating at-least-linear (more likely exponential) tendlike rise, which is triggering increasing recession-central bank intervention periods.