The U.S. government’s Energy Information Agency (EIA) is a treasure trove of useful data for those willing to navigate its less than friendly website.
The most interesting report to show up on the statistics-laden site is the “World Shale Gas and Shale Oil Resource Assessment,” compiled by Advanced Resources International (ARI) under EIA sponsorship. The study is a gift to the hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) industry worldwide, as it advances some impressive data on global shale gas and shale oil reserves, many of which have energy companies eager to develop. The report is highly significant in that it represents the first time that the EIA has given statistics on foreign shale gas and oil deposits.
For “Technically Recoverable Shale Gas Resources” the report states that the world has an estimated 6,634 trillion cubic feet (tcf) of recoverable shale gas, 7,795 tcf if U.S. reserves are added to the mix. The top three shale gas recoverable reserves are found in the United States (1,161 tcf), China (1,115 tcf) and Argentina (802 tcf.)
The EIA “Technically Recoverable Shale Oil Resources” data lists global reserves as 287 billion barrels of shale oil, 335 billion barrels if U.S. reserves are factored in. The world’s three top reserves of shale oil are Russia (75 billion barrels), the United States (48 billion barrels) and China (32 billion barrels).
While no such report can claim to be definitive, ARI in compiling its “World Shale Gas and Shale Oil Resource Assessment” surveyed in-place and technically recoverable shale gas and shale oil in 95 shale basins and 137 shale formations in 41 countries and also included its other assessments of U.S. shale gas and oil reserves from other research.
What the report makes clear is that neither shale natural gas nor shale oil will be a bonanza for all countries, as it is very unevenly distributed worldwide. Two-thirds of the assessed, technically recoverable shale gas resource is concentrated in only six countries; the U.S., China, Argentina, Algeria, Canada and Mexico. A similar picture holds for technically recoverable shale oil reserves, concentrated in six countries – Russia, the U.S., China, Argentina, Libya and Venezuela.
The assessment concludes, “New geologic and reservoir data collected by these industries and research drilling programs will enable future assessments of shale gas and shale oil resources to progressively become more rigorous.” The report then adds the caveat, “Significant additional shale gas and shale oil resources exist in the Middle East, Central Africa and other countries not yet included in our study. Hopefully, future editions of this report will address these important potential shale resource areas.” Promoting its own expertise, ARI notes, “Beyond the resource numbers, the current EIA/ARI “World Shale Gas and Shale Oil Resource Assessment” represents a major step forward in terms of the depth and “hard data” of the resource information assembled for 137 distinct shale formations and 95 shale basins in 41 countries.” The report is indeed revolutionary, as it notes that the amount of known technically recoverable oil from shale formations has increased by a factor of 10 in the past two years.
The only question then, is who is going to stump up the financial capital and provide technical expertise to allow such countries as Russia, China, Algeria, Pakistan and Mexico to develop their own indigenous shale natural gas and oil industries? If Beijing at present can economically underwrite such programs in allied nations, for the technology the world must still largely turn to the United States, where it seems likely that such proprietary technology will be most carefully supplied to friendly countries and foreign companies on the most advantageous terms possible. After years of decline a surge in oil and gas production from shale rock has transformed energy in the United States, helping reverse dwindling oil production and prompting a massive shift from coal to natural gas.
It seems unlikely then that Washington would want to help the competition – too soon.
This piece is cross-posted from Oil Price.com with permission.