What you don’t know about shale gas may surprise you

You don’t have to look far these days to find news articles talking about how natural gas from shale is boosting domestic energy supplies, creating jobs and revitalizing energy-intensive U.S. industries such as manufacturing.

But some recent articles also shed light on some lesser-known aspects of this shale gas “revolution” – ones that may not be as obvious, but are just as important:

  • Today’s shale gas “revolution” actually was decades in the making. In its cover story this week, “The United States of Natural Gas,” Fortune magazine shows how shale gas development is reviving the American economy. But the coverage also touches on a less-appreciated part of the energy business: how companies like ExxonMobil must invest and operate on timelines that can span decades. As one article points out, the shale gas technologies that are having such an impact today were still being developed back in the 1970s, when our CEO, Rex Tillerson, was a 24-year-old engineer completing wells in East Texas.
  • The jobs being created aren’t just in the oil and gas industry. As the Associated Press wrote this week, America’s shale gas activity is spurring demand not just for drillers and geologists but for a range of professions – everyone from software engineers to wildlife experts. These positions aren’t classified as “oil and gas jobs” when the Bureau of Labor Statistics publishes its monthly U.S. jobs data, but they – along with many others – are a direct result of the increased energy activity in the United States. Other recent articles focus on the jobs that shale is creating for womenveterans and recent college grads.
  • States are the primary regulators of onshore oil and gas activities, including shale. A recent executive order from the White House made news for its intent to coordinate the dozen federal agencies and departments currently involved with various aspects of shale gas development. But as both the order and a recent Reuters article point out, states are the primary regulators. This is because much of the unconventional natural gas development takes place on private lands, and states have the most knowledge and experience with their own geology, resources, rules and regulations.
  • Shale gas can help reduce U.S. emissions. Rising availability of shale gas is encouraging utilities to switch from coal to cleaner-burning natural gas, said John Rowe, the former head of Exelon, one of the largest U.S. electricity producers. In an article in Forbes, Rowe called natural gas “an incredible national blessing” and said it is helping advance U.S. energy and environmental goals. Natural gas produces up to 60 percent fewer carbon dioxide emissions than coal when used for power generation.

It’s good to see America’s journalists and opinion leaders talking about natural gas, which for decades received relatively little attention even as it grew to become the country’s second-largest energy source. As the global demand for natural gas continues to grow – and it will by about 60 percent to 2040, according to ExxonMobil estimates – we’re sure to see increased public and media interest in this fuel source.


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  1. Richard Baty says:

    It is clear to me that this current Democratic administration is not interested in creating jobs via fossil fuels — only wasting dollars on Solandra type companies. I see the oil companies with TV ads, but only Exxon/Mobil is touting fossil fuels — this message needs to hit a wider audience, including college students needing jobs upon graduation.

    • Frank Gifford says:

      U.S. crude oil production increased by an estimated 120,000 barrels a day last year over 2010, the report says. Current production, about 5.6 million barrels a day, is the highest since 2003. The report by six federal agencies was released early Monday (March 12, 2012) The U.S. now imports 45% of its petroleum, down from 57% in 2008. The Obama administrations goal is to reduce imports to 1/3 of total consumption by 2032.

      • Frank Gifford says:

        Please not above reply from LA Times March 12, 2012 “U.S. report: Oil imports down, domestic production highest since 2003″

      • Gee Mathews says:

        PLEASE. The vast majority of the oil production increase is related to PRIVATE land. The current administration is doing all it can to diminish, demonize and eventually destroy the oil industry. Obama is out to dismantle any big business it sees as contrary to their bizarre vision of what our country should be…

      • Paul Thompson says:

        The increase was NOT due to Obama as he cut drilling permits on fed lands 47%. Every bit of that increase was on private and Indian lands which Obama and the EPA tried stopping. He only took credit for the increase of oil production to get re-elected..

    • Carlo Pietro says:

      If you had read the article you would understand that the science of the energy industry is not turned on or off during any single presidents term. Obama has little to do with either the price at the pump or the current increase in domestic production/ decrease in demand.
      The offshore fields put on the market by the government to be developed take many years to come online, with many factors going into it. A company like Exxon is not going to hire thousands more people and try to ramp up production just because you cannot afford to fuel up you ski boat at $4 a gallon. They are responsible for keeping a steady supply that will meet demand year-in and year-out, cheap or expensive oil. It is vital for our country that they operate like that. Let the wildcat drillers go after the small pockets of oil when the price is high.
      Solandra was a failed gamble on solar panels. It failed because they were developing a different, more costly type of panel that did not use silicon. Their failure, and the collapse of the entire US panel industry has more to do with the Chines government dumping $30 billion into production facilities using science invented in the US to flood our domestic industry. We raise 500 million, they called our bet and raised us 30 billion.

      • David Flattery says:

        Granted that new energy developments are the result of decades of development over the span of multiple Presidents. However, one President with an anti-fossil fuel bias can stymie those decades of work and billions of dollars of investment with key administrative decisions such as blocking the Keystone pipeline, shutting down oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico and denying final EPA approval of a major oil development in Alaska, just to name three. The impact of such decisions raises energy prices much more quickly than developing new energy sources can lower them.

    • Dan Ferrall says:

      It is clear that Big Oil will find a way to make windfall profits without regard for anyone except their executives and shareholders.

      Just take a look at the price gauging taking place all over the country because of the excuse of refinery fires and other artificial shortages.

      Look at the profits for Big Oil for the last several years.

      Its time for the little people to stand up and demand legislation to control pricing for vital resources like gas and oil and stop Big Oil from what they are doing.

      Dan

      • David Todd says:

        Dan,
        Do you remember QE 1,2,3 etc. QEs are nothing more than cheapening the dollar. When the people who sell us oil see us doing this guess what the do? Raise the price!!! “Big Oil” has nothing to do with it. Your affirmative action president caused this price rise but everyone gives him a pass. This is pure and simple a tax on everyone that you are paying so Barack and Michelle can act like royalty and fly to Hawaii on our dime. DT

      • Ben Cousins says:

        It’s overly apparent that you don’t know what you are talking about. Why are you even registered to this website? Oil refineries do catch fire all of the time. Why you ask? Because the EPA has shutdown all efforts to build new refineries to replace the decrepit facilities that are in use today. Do some research, and learn something, before you start spouting off.

  2. James Kellogg says:

    Hi Mr. Cohen,

    It’s good to see that private industry is taking the lead to develop America’s significant reserves of shale gas. I believe it is a keystone piece to solve our nation’s long-term energy puzzle. However, private citizens need to stand up to excessive federal government regulation via the EPA. States and industry are extracting shale gas in an environmentally responsible manner. The EPA should not be granted additional power over the process. I wrote a recent article about this. http://liberteawatch.com/2011/12/09/americans-should-oppose-epa-hydraulic-fracturing-regulation/

    This Perspectives blog is a great public relations tool!

    James D. Kellogg
    Founder of LiberTEAWatch.com

  3. Bruce Benton says:

    Few people know that cars can be run of natural gas … very easily … and it’s not too hard to convert existing cars to natural gas.

    It just takes a different carburetor and a pressure tank in the trunk … if fact GM is now selling a truck that will run on natural gas.

    Cars run cleaner on natural gas.

    There is already a distribution system in place to deliver it through out the US … as opposed to the lack of one to distribute electricity.

    Fact is a bunch of electricity is produced from natural gas … much more expensive than direct use of natural gas in cars … also cars on nat gas go a lot more than 50 miles between fill ups.

    For a few thousand $ you can buy a compressor for your house and fill up your car at home.

    Some new fracking methods have really opened the door to more natural gas in the US.

    It is really amazing that these facts are so little known.

    b square

  4. Douglass MacArthur says:

    I thought you were going to talk about Gasland. Whoops!

    • steve factor says:

      That would be like a discussion on mercury poisoning of lakes initiated by the Gold Mining industry in California or the Coal industry in Minnesota. We would much rather focus on the benefits of “Catch and Release” than popular fish recipes.

      • roy sagarin says:

        Be sure to consider the environmental (ground water pollution) effects of fracking, see New York State issues currently before the Governor.

        • Harold Stewart says:

          It’s fruitless to consider something which has never, ever happened, and is virtually impossible to occur. If there is any probability for contamination of groundwater strata, at all, it occurs during the initial drilling phase, not during fracking, fracking occurs several thousand feet below any fresh water zones, with more than a few impermeable rock layers between the two.

  5. Bill Bell says:

    I like the idea of using CNG to fuel vehicles. It really makes sense for vehicles that drive a lot of miles locally each year like taxis, buses, delivery and other fleet vehicles. For me I just don’t drive enough, 15,000 miles/year, to make it payback. To convert a vehicle to CNG costs a minimum of $8,000 and more typically $10,000 to $12,000. GM offers a CNG bi-fuel truck for $11,000 for fleet owners. Consumers cannot buy it. Honda has the Civic CNG for around $28,000 versus a non-CNG vehicle of similar size that can be purchased for under $20,000. Assume you get 25mpg and you can save $1.50/gge (gallon) and you drive 15,000 miles a year. It will take you 9 years to make the initial cost payback. The CNG tanks expire after 15 years essentially making the car worthless. Now you can do home fueling and get the savings per gallon higher, maybe $2.50/gge. But a home fueling station costs $5,000 plus about $2,000 to install. It hardly pays to do home fueling especially considering the maintenance costs of the unit. There are around 500 public CNG fueling stations across the US. vs. 180,000+ public gasoline stations. This makes cross country travel on dedicated CNG vehicles impractical.

    In summary, I like CNG. It makes a lot of sense for high mileage/low mpg vehicles. For the average consumer the upfront cost create a payback that is too long especially considering the tanks expire after 15 years making the car essentially worthless.

    • Larry Smedley says:

      The Obama administration has failed to take advantage of the tremendous growth in natural gas resources in the USA. They have provided loans and subsidies to uneconomic alternative energies such as solar and wind rather than encouraging the use of clean burning natural gas. Obama’s failed energy policy has contributed greatly to the poor performance of the US economy. We need a new administration who will encourage the use of natural gas.

  6. Janet Seymour says:

    Forgive me for not taking the word of the “vice president of public and government affairs” on the safety of shale oil extraction. This industry may have a lot of jobs, but you can’t drink the money that job brings in if the very job I get destroys the drinking water my town sits on.

    Another concern, TransCanada currently sells this oil to Montana, the Dakotas and Minnesota. If we allow the Keystone pipeline through to Houston, that oil will be shipped off to South America, decreasing the U.S. domestic oil supply. The upper great plains states will then compete for Mid-Eastern oil with the rest of us.

    I love the idea of getting high paying jobs, but it takes just as many high paying jobs to implement and maintain wind farms and solar installations with the added bonus of being able to maintain the towns’ drinking water.

    • Theodore Roosevelt says:

      I do not see where in this article they mention the downsides of shale gas extraction. The increased seismic activity in the areas already undergoing gas extraction seems to be absent from this article. The carcinogens used in the fluid extraction are not mentioned here either. It would seem in the interest of full disclosure we would be including the known hazards of this methodology.

      An interesting point that is also absent from this article is the fact that this industry is largely unregulated by the EPA and other government agencies due to the RCRA loophole that Dick Cheney pushed through just after stepping down as CEO of Halliburton (the company that provides the 65 known carcinogenic chemicals used in fracking) and becoming vice-president of the United States.

      It would seem to me that this information should be included in any discussions on this subject as it is helpful for people to be informed of all sides of a story.

    • Richard Tryon says:

      Hi Janet: Sorry to see you be so concerned about ‘fraking’ and your water supply. I do not know if you can learn enough about the record of towns without water or even individuals, caused by leaking chemicals down under many thousands of feet of bedrock; nor do I know if you have a way in your town of getting reliable power from wind and sun with a reasonable ROI.

      I intend to grow food with a way that uses so little power that wind and sun are enough, but I doubt that wind and solar will do much to make your car, heating, and cooling energy needs be satisfied.

      What do you suggest? Turn off travel, heat and cooling?

  7. Richard Masterson says:

    Ken Cohen has taken the position that (1) the primary purpose of gas harvesting is to generate income and jobs, and (2) that an industry is capable of self-regulating and regulation by local governments.

    Those presumptions by harvesters of Earth resources will be the primary reason for the demise of homo sapiens.

    We need to appreciate that there is going to be a point in time where we have depleted a resource or have produced so much co-product (pollutants) that our race will not survive. The sky is not going to fall in 5 or 10 years, but we are stewards of the Earth for our descendants 1,000 years from now.

    EPA regulations may reduce monetary profits in the next 10 or 50 years. But what ought to be the price we pay to assure our progeny will still have good or better lives in 1,000 years? Citizens of the United States are but a small part of the global population of plants and animals, and we have been very abusive of the Earth.

    Generally, the gas industry would alter the Earth for profit without proving it will do no harm — none, 100% nothing — to the well being of people. (100% compensating processes qualify to meet the requirement of “no harm.”) We are at the edge of a cliff; one misstep will be fatal, not just uncomfortable. Might it be better to comply to very strict regulation to improve the chances of human survival than to make a profit with even a small risk that our progeny cannot live?

    For another detail, the bookkeeping of “by-products” needs to be replaced with “co-products.” By-products are trash that we can burn or bury, putting them out of sight. Co-products are materials that must be accounted for. They may add to profit as a merchantable product… read more »

    …of their own, or they may be costly to de-contaminate from potential harm to humans.

    I’m sorry about the price of your energy company stock, if you have chosen to buy any.

    • Mike Flores says:

      You are playing music to the cows. Don’t expect common sense
      and reality from the common man who seeks to plunder Mother Earth like locusts upon a wheat field.

    • Ben Cousins says:

      What are you hippies doing on Exxon-Mobil’s website anyways? Shouldn’t you be living in a tent somewhere demonstrating in a futile protest?

  8. Mike Flores says:

    What do we do when Shale gas and other fossil fuels run out in 50 to 500 years? Fossil fuels are not forever because it came from Dinosaurs.
    Can’t blame Obama or Bush for America’s addiction to cheap oil.

    • Chris Martino says:

      I agree on the fact that one day we will run out no matter what. We do need to work on developing new tech. I don’t think solar but maybe something with tides. Maybe something entirely brand new I don’t know but something. Until we can figure out something that works and is economical we need to use what we got for our benefit. Its there use it. This shale revolution has been a blessing for myself and many others. There are so many jobs I see in ND created from oil here. The construction that is going on is crazy. There are thousands here building the infrastructure that other wise would be struggling to make ends meet back home. I am able to provide my family with a really good life thanks to oil. Im an operator on a workover rig. I also realize the importance of finding new tech.

      By the way Mike do you realize how many trillions of tons of dead dinosaurs there would have to of been to create all the gas and oil we’ve used and still have. How about the tropical Foliage back then.

  9. Sid Abma says:

    How many people recognize our natural gas as a “clean” source of energy? How many realize how efficiently natural gas can be consumed?
    The residential market has it’s high efficiency water heater and condensing boilers that operate at mid 90% energy efficiency, and vent cool exhaust out of the wall through PVC pipe.
    America has only 1 grade of natural gas. Everyone uses the same grade of natural gas, including large commercial buildings and industries and even the power plants.
    The US EIA states that in 2012 commercial buildings and industry and the power plants consumed approx. 19.5 Trillion cu.ft. of natural gas. How many chimneys are there across America poking through the roofs of all these buildings and locations across the country? How efficiently do these locations consume their natural gas?
    How much is being blown into the atmosphere as Hot wasted energy? 20% ~ 40% ~ 60%? At what temperatures?
    Why is this still being allowed? Are we not in a battle with Climate Change. How might this effect Global Warming?

    The technology of Condensing Flue Gas Heat Recovery has been utilized by some industries in North America for over 30 years.
    This technology is designed to recover almost all of the heat energy from the waste exhaust gases, making this recovered heat energy available to be used in the building or facility, or at a nearby facility as building space heating or heated domestic or process water, or at a hotel or university to heat the swimming pools.
    Being vented into the atmosphere will be Cool exhaust. There will be times in the summer when the exhaust can be cooler than the outside air temperatures. Mass air conditioning?

    America has been the country of waste, and waste energy for too long. If there is a way, is it not time to… read more »

    …change the way?
    Imagine the power plants. They today have these big tall chimneys. Lets change that. No chimneys!
    No waste heat energy going into the atmosphere. Even the cooled CO2 will be utilized efficiently. No or only little CO2 will be vented into the atmosphere.

    Our goal is to Make A Difference, and make a difference in the battle against Climate Change.
    What it is ~ is a decision. America can continue in it’s course as it has for so many years, or decide the evidence is there, it is time for a change, so the earth we are leaving behind to our grand kids and great grand kids will still be habitable.

    Don’t just take my word on this, do your own research if our future environment is important to you.
    How many jobs could this create? How many chimneys are there across America venting Hot exhaust?
    How many jobs could this create assessing all these locations?
    How many engineers would be required to design the most efficient application for utilizing all this recovered heat energy?
    How many mechanical firms would be hired to install all these Condensing Flue Gas Heat Recovery systems?

    What will this do for America’s Economy?
    What could this do for America’s Environment?
    What natural gas is Not Wasted today, will be there to be used another day.

  10. Richard Baty says:

    It is clear to me that this current Democratic administration is not interested in creating jobs via fossil fuels — only wasting dollars on Solandra type companies. I see the oil companies with TV ads, but only Exxon/Mobil is touting fossil fuels — this message needs to hit a wider audience, including college students needing jobs upon graduation.

    • Frank Gifford says:

      U.S. crude oil production increased by an estimated 120,000 barrels a day last year over 2010, the report says. Current production, about 5.6 million barrels a day, is the highest since 2003. The report by six federal agencies was released early Monday (March 12, 2012) The U.S. now imports 45% of its petroleum, down from 57% in 2008. The Obama administrations goal is to reduce imports to 1/3 of total consumption by 2032.

      • Frank Gifford says:

        Please not above reply from LA Times March 12, 2012 “U.S. report: Oil imports down, domestic production highest since 2003″

      • Gee Mathews says:

        PLEASE. The vast majority of the oil production increase is related to PRIVATE land. The current administration is doing all it can to diminish, demonize and eventually destroy the oil industry. Obama is out to dismantle any big business it sees as contrary to their bizarre vision of what our country should be…

      • Paul Thompson says:

        The increase was NOT due to Obama as he cut drilling permits on fed lands 47%. Every bit of that increase was on private and Indian lands which Obama and the EPA tried stopping. He only took credit for the increase of oil production to get re-elected..

    • Carlo Pietro says:

      If you had read the article you would understand that the science of the energy industry is not turned on or off during any single presidents term. Obama has little to do with either the price at the pump or the current increase in domestic production/ decrease in demand.
      The offshore fields put on the market by the government to be developed take many years to come online, with many factors going into it. A company like Exxon is not going to hire thousands more people and try to ramp up production just because you cannot afford to fuel up you ski boat at $4 a gallon. They are responsible for keeping a steady supply that will meet demand year-in and year-out, cheap or expensive oil. It is vital for our country that they operate like that. Let the wildcat drillers go after the small pockets of oil when the price is high.
      Solandra was a failed gamble on solar panels. It failed because they were developing a different, more costly type of panel that did not use silicon. Their failure, and the collapse of the entire US panel industry has more to do with the Chines government dumping $30 billion into production facilities using science invented in the US to flood our domestic industry. We raise 500 million, they called our bet and raised us 30 billion.

      • David Flattery says:

        Granted that new energy developments are the result of decades of development over the span of multiple Presidents. However, one President with an anti-fossil fuel bias can stymie those decades of work and billions of dollars of investment with key administrative decisions such as blocking the Keystone pipeline, shutting down oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico and denying final EPA approval of a major oil development in Alaska, just to name three. The impact of such decisions raises energy prices much more quickly than developing new energy sources can lower them.

    • Dan Ferrall says:

      It is clear that Big Oil will find a way to make windfall profits without regard for anyone except their executives and shareholders.

      Just take a look at the price gauging taking place all over the country because of the excuse of refinery fires and other artificial shortages.

      Look at the profits for Big Oil for the last several years.

      Its time for the little people to stand up and demand legislation to control pricing for vital resources like gas and oil and stop Big Oil from what they are doing.

      Dan

      • David Todd says:

        Dan,
        Do you remember QE 1,2,3 etc. QEs are nothing more than cheapening the dollar. When the people who sell us oil see us doing this guess what the do? Raise the price!!! “Big Oil” has nothing to do with it. Your affirmative action president caused this price rise but everyone gives him a pass. This is pure and simple a tax on everyone that you are paying so Barack and Michelle can act like royalty and fly to Hawaii on our dime. DT

      • Ben Cousins says:

        It’s overly apparent that you don’t know what you are talking about. Why are you even registered to this website? Oil refineries do catch fire all of the time. Why you ask? Because the EPA has shutdown all efforts to build new refineries to replace the decrepit facilities that are in use today. Do some research, and learn something, before you start spouting off.

  11. James Kellogg says:

    Hi Mr. Cohen,

    It’s good to see that private industry is taking the lead to develop America’s significant reserves of shale gas. I believe it is a keystone piece to solve our nation’s long-term energy puzzle. However, private citizens need to stand up to excessive federal government regulation via the EPA. States and industry are extracting shale gas in an environmentally responsible manner. The EPA should not be granted additional power over the process. I wrote a recent article about this. http://liberteawatch.com/2011/12/09/americans-should-oppose-epa-hydraulic-fracturing-regulation/

    This Perspectives blog is a great public relations tool!

    James D. Kellogg
    Founder of LiberTEAWatch.com

  12. Bruce Benton says:

    Few people know that cars can be run of natural gas … very easily … and it’s not too hard to convert existing cars to natural gas.

    It just takes a different carburetor and a pressure tank in the trunk … if fact GM is now selling a truck that will run on natural gas.

    Cars run cleaner on natural gas.

    There is already a distribution system in place to deliver it through out the US … as opposed to the lack of one to distribute electricity.

    Fact is a bunch of electricity is produced from natural gas … much more expensive than direct use of natural gas in cars … also cars on nat gas go a lot more than 50 miles between fill ups.

    For a few thousand $ you can buy a compressor for your house and fill up your car at home.

    Some new fracking methods have really opened the door to more natural gas in the US.

    It is really amazing that these facts are so little known.

    b square