Shale oil, gas ‘abundant’ in the world, EIA says

June 10, 2013, 11:46 AM

By Claudia Assis

Shale oil and gas are “abundant” around the globe, and the world has 10% more shale gas resources than the Energy Information Administration estimated just two years ago.

The new report, released Monday, took advantage of new geological research and well drilling results to paint a more complete picture of shale oil and gas outside the U.S. and Canada, the two only two countries that have been able to produce commercial quantities of both.

The new report also focused on oil as well as shale gas, and broadened its research to 95 basins in 41 countries from 48 basins in 32 countries in the 2011 report, the EIA said.

Of those, Russia sits on the most “technically recoverable” shale oil reserves — 75 billion barrels. The U.S. comes in second, with 58 billion. China, Argentina, and Libya round out the top five, the EIA said.

China has the most in technically recoverable shale gas, with 1.1 trillion cubic feet. Argentina, with 802 tcf, is No. 2. The U.S. is fourth, with 665 tcf, just below Algeria, with 707 tcf. Canada is No. 5, with 573 tcf.

All told, the EIA estimated resources of 345 billion barrels of shale oil worldwide, and 7.3 tcf of shale gas.

Of course, the words are “technically recoverable.”  Technological advances in horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing unlocked vast shale reserves in the U.S. and Canada, but the estimates are still rough.

Or, as the EIA put it, they are “highly uncertain and will remain so until they are extensively tested with production wells.” The  report estimated reserves based on the geology and resource recovery rates of similar shale formations in the U.S.

Even if the resource estimates prove to be in the ballpark, there’s no telling whether it will make economic sense to go after them in every country.

“The market impact of shale resources outside the United States will depend on their own production costs and volumes,” the EIA said. “A potential shale well that costs twice as much and produces half the output of a typical U.S. well would be unlikely to back out current supply sources of oil or natural gas.”

In other words — the difference between being labeled “game changer,” an expression that gets tossed around a lot in talking about shale, and being relegated to the dustbin of the oil patch is not that great and depends on the economics of the place and global market prices.

Several nations have been trying to play catch-up with the U.S. and Canada. Poland has leased prospective shale acreage and drilled 43 test wells as of April 2013, the EIA said, although it has encountered political problems along the way. Argentina, Australia, China, England, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey have begun exploration or expressed interest in their shale formations, the EIA added.

Shale oil provided 29% of total U.S. crude-oil production and 40% of total natural-gas production last year, the EIA said.


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