Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Life Could Be a Dream, Shale boom, shale boom

There is that goldie oldie with the great lyrics:
Oh Life could be a dream, (Shaboom)
If I could take you up in paradise up above, (Shaboom)
If you tell me I'm the only one that you love (Shaboom)
Life would be a dream sweetheart

Shaboom, shaboom, yada da da da da
Shaboom, shaboom, yada da da da da
Shaboom, shaboom, yada da da da da
Now people are singing a slightly different tune - Shale boom, shale boom:
Although much of the industry's attention to future domestic supply has focused on coalbed methane and the deepwater Gulf, shale is making a huge comeback - as evidenced by the surge in activity in Texas' Barnett Shale, which has propelled Devon Energy to the Lone Star State's largest gas producer. And shale formations in other parts of the country, from Wyoming to Arkansas to Appalachia, are attracting millions of dollars of new investment.

Estimates of how much gas is sandwiched between shallow layers of prehistoric mud now as hard as a chalkboard change constantly as more exploration-and-production companies plunk their bets on those quirky, unconventional plays - and have more success coaxing commercial quantities of gas out of them.

In the 1980s, only tiny Mitchell Energy was pushing drill bits into shallow but tightly bound layers of Devonian-age "black" shale, hoping to get at the softer, gas-bearing layer of sedimentary rock, often cracking the surface with water or gelatins to open up its minute cracks and release its gas.

Now, Oklahoma City-based Devon, which bought Mitchell Energy in 2001, operates 1,700 of the more than 3,400 wells in the Barnett - wells that recently propelled Devon's gas production there past 1 Bcf/day.
According to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), one Barnett field, Newark East, is the sixth-largest gas field in the United States.

And as prolific as it is, the Barnett is just one part of what many E&P companies see as a nationwide shale drilling boom that will produce substantial volumes of gas to help meet growing demand even as conventional production flattens or declines.

While the Barnett is one of the youngest US shale discoveries, the granddaddy is the Appalachian Basin, which runs along the western edge of the Appalachian Mountains from New York to Ohio and Kentucky.

The Energy Information Administration estimated in 2000 that 23.4 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) of recoverable gas lay beneath that field, the largest amount of any shale field except the Barnett.

EIA's estimates seem to be too low. The Marcellus Shale, the part of the Appalachian Basin that lies 6,000 feet below the Appalachian Mountains and runs diagonally southwest from Canada, through New York state and Pennsylvania to West Virginia is now estimated to hold 50 Tcf of recoverable gas in Pennsylvania alone.

With 21,000 wells, the Appalachian Basin shale produces roughly 120 Bcf/year, according to the American Association of Petroleum Geologists.
When prices go up because of scarcity, innovation steps in...Shaboom.

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