Natural gas: a game changer
When George Mitchell went on a quest to coax natural gas out of the Barnett Shale in the early 1980s, he was not trying to start an energy revolution. He just wanted to have enough natural gas to run his gas processing plant in Bridgeport, Texas.
e achieved his goal but he also set into motion a series of events that has become a worldwide energy revolution. The first event was the development of the Barnett Shale. Other shale plays quickly followed and an energy revolution was born.
This shale energy revolution is the result of two technologies coming together, horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, both of which have been used for decades. These technologies have enabled energy companies to go straight to the source rock, as geologists call it, which is shale. Think of shale as the sponge that has held fossil fuels for hundreds of millions of years. Before horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, drillers had to explore for isolated pockets of hydrocarbons that had leaked out of the shales into surrounding sands. Such pockets had become increasingly hard to find and production in the U.S. had been declining for decades until the Barnett Shale came along.
Initially targeting natural gas, these technologies are now also being used to go after crude oil because, as it turns out, the geology of America is an abundance of natural gas and crude oil-bearing shales. These new energy resources have resulted in increases in domestic oil and natural gas production that have totally changed the energy picture in the United States.
The International Energy Agency (IEA) wrote about it in their recently released World Energy Outlook 2012. The IEA’s chief economist, Dr. Fatih Birol, said that the surge in U.S. oil and gas production is “the biggest change in the energy world since World War II.” According to a Reuters report, which claims Birol isn’t disposed to follow general hype, Birol was quoted as saying, “This is bigger even than the development of nuclear energy.”
Daniel Yergin echoed those statements with data showing that these new energy sources have created more than 1.7 million U.S. jobs, and by 2020 those numbers could grow to 3 million. New taxes and royalties could amount to more than $110 billion by that time, providing urgently needed resources for cash-strapped governments. At the same time, historically low U.S. natural gas prices, which are a third of those in Europe and Japan, are prompting billions of dollars of investments in U.S. advanced manufacturing – thus fueling a new export economy.
The economic, transportation, environmental and geopolitical benefits of shale gas and the technologies that make it possible are numerous, and they are the focus of this BSEEC eNewsletter. And to think that it all started right here in the Barnett Shale.
On behalf of the Barnett Shale Energy Education Council, we wish you and your family a happy holiday and a wonderful new year.