In the few years that EiD has been providing you information on sustainable energy issues, it has never been quoted in the New York Times until this week. This is a pleasant surprise and hopefully there will be more in the future. Andrew C. Revkin writes a blog on the New York Times Dot Earth opinion page on the evolution of natural gas production from fracking in the US.
Annals of the ‘Methane Age’: Gas from Fracked Wells No Longer ‘Unconventional’
The Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration has posted a short update on trends in natural gas production in the United States that’s worth noting simply because it illustrates the profound nature of the energy transitions that are being propelled by the exploitation of shale deposits using hydraulic fracturing, known best as fracking, along with horizontal drilling.
There are, of course a host of issues accompanying the dawn of what Cesare Marchetti and others, as far back as 1986, called “The Methane Age” (natural gas being primarily methane).
One, touched on repeatedly here, is the need for regulations to catch up with this maturing technology — both in cutting gas leaks and handling drilling wastes.
Here’s the energy agency’s takeaway point:
For decades, hydraulic fracturing had been referred to as an unconventional completion technique, but over the past 10 years it has become the technique by which most natural gas is produced in the United States. Based on the most recent data from states, EIA estimates that natural gas production from hydraulically fractured wells now makes up about two-thirds of total U.S. marketed gas production. This share of production is even greater than the share of crude oil produced using that method, where hydraulic fracturing accounts for about half of current U.S. crude oil production.
In sifting for views on the scope of the change that has been set in motion by these technologies, I found Rod Janssen, a veteran Paris-based energy analyst who blogs at Energy in Demand. He wrote this in March, cautioning that more surprises lie ahead:
The whole story shows how much advances in technology can alter the outlook. A decade ago, no one projected the growth in shale gas or tight oil in the US or anywhere else in the world. In the outlook documents written at BP and elsewhere at that time, shale was not mentioned as a potential source of energy — I know, because I was involved in writing some of them. The physical existence of oil and gas in shale rocks was known but its development was believed to be uneconomic and it was therefore excluded from the projections.
Technology is changing the industry at a dramatic rate. The long-term outlooks produced by the companies and by institutions such as the International Energy Agency can only project the prospects on the basis of known and proven technology. That is a reasonable approach but no one should think that it represents the end of the story.
Finally, the financial blog Seeking Alpha has a useful fresh look at global gas economics and production trends.