Oil has joined the Past… NG is the Future!

Jack H Barnes's picture


natural gas cartel, a dream of Russia’s just a few years ago, is dead.
It died when a natural gas revolution broke out and Gazprom lost. 
Energy importing nations around the world are evaluating their own
geology, currently, to see if they have shale reserves that can be
tapped.  Nations like Argentina, Germany, Poland, France, and Sweden are
looking into their national shale reserves.

The shale gas revolution is changing the world we live in, and the
power structures of the past.  It is also quickly changing the politics
of future energy relationships.  Nations that had to be nice to an
exporter, due to energy supplies, will be freed of their need for

Shale gas is quite simply changing the whole energy paradigm in real
time.  The unlocking of source rock, has altered the future history of
mankind.  The world has discovered and unlocked its newest true world
changing source of stored energy.

  • In the 1700’s, the world used wood for its energy source. The great mansions were heated with wood.
  • In the 1800’s, coal provided the go-to source of transportable
    fuel.   It allowed railroads to rapidly move people at a pace faster
    than a horse. Coal powered the Industrial Revolution.
  • In the 1900’s, crude oil became the primary fuel.  It was refined
    into fuel for aircraft, for ships at sea and into gasoline and diesel. 
    Crude oil provided the necessary cheap energy to fuel the rapid
    expansion of civilization to the rest of the world.
  • The 2000’s arrived with the onset of peak light sweet crude oil. 
    The US had peaked in overall oil production decades before, and as the
    new century started its reserves in both oil and conventional natural
    gas where shrinking.

It was in this situation, that a group of small O&G companies,
starting with Mitchell and working separately to start, but building on
knowledge learned in the field, figured out how to unlock the natural
gas in the Barrett shale formation in Texas.

The technology was soon adapted to oil shale wells in the Bakken
formation along the Montana/North Dakota border.  These two events have
changed how the oil & gas industry looks at resources today.  Shale,
depending on type, can be a provider of long life high flowing oil
wells, or it can produce as much natural as from one shale well, as a
small conventional field would produce.  The dynamics of on-shore energy
production has been the biggest change in the underlying economy
unnoticed by most people.

simple terms, a natural gas or oil well is engineered to have an
extremely long horizontal leg.  The idea is to provide as large of a
circular surface as possible in the productive zone.  They are drilling
these legs a mile long or more now. The long horizontal leg is
stimulated with extremely high pressured water, sand and proprietary
particles into the zone around the pipe.

This process opens up crevices in the rock, opening up cavities with
larger surface areas than you would get normally around the pipe.  This
allows the hydrocarbons to be pulled into the well at higher than normal
flow rates for the type of rock.  The combining of long legs with
extremely high pressure multi stage fracturing unlocked the hydrocarbons
bound in the rock itself.  Normally, fields are traps with
accumulations in a sandy area.  That is the oil or gas can be trapped in
a location that allows it to move.  The shale rock is called a source
rock because the hydrocarbons found in those other pools may have leaked
out of it and moved hundreds of miles laterally.

The world has shale fields spread around the globe in locations
famous for oil production, and some not so famous.  The new technology
will change the basic political power structures that exist today.  The
era of Russia controlling Europe’s natural gas future is drawing to a

“The size of reserves is mind boggling,” he said. “It makes a huge argument for a gas economy going forward.”Annop Poddar, Partner, Energy Ventures

the shale fields in Poland and Germany can be brought online at the
same level of production seen in the US, Europe on shore will be energy
independent via their own production.  France has shale oil and shale
gas locations.

The good news about the geology of shale is that a zone is productive
typically over extremely large area’s covering tens or hundreds of
miles in different directions.  This means that wells are almost never
dud’s.  The actual hit rate on the new shale wells is extremely high. 
This is because the horizontal leg allows the whole length to be
produced as a whole.

Exxon realized this technology had the capacity to change the world. 
They purchased the largest player in the new techno revolution.   XTO
has given Exxon a significant new position in the US, the new
technology, and view towards changing the world’s energy view.

The current strangle hold on hydrocarbons by national oil companies
is coming to an end.  New large pools of hydrocarbons are being released
in the middle of western nations with hydrocarbon reserve ownership
available for commercial exploitation.

The US has grown its own internal natural gas supplies to the point
that it is now the largest producer of natural gas in the world.  The
renaissance in production shows no signs of slowing down. In fact, the
US is trading the same BTU content as a barrel of oil, for less than the
equivalent of $30 per barrel.

In natural gas terms, 1 MCF of NG is worth less than $5.00 in the
US.  That same MCF is worth $14 or so on the world market.  This is a
price differential caused by a surplus of NG in the US, without the
capacity to export it easily.  We’ve built a number of LNG importing
facilities, but the only exporting location for LNG is Alaska.

The US is now growing its overall hydrocarbon production profile
again.  This is after many years of “experts” pontificating that the US
was always going to be an importer of energy.  The US was supposed to be
trapped importing larger levels of energy from abroad forever.  No one
expected the US to quickly become the largest producer of natural gas in
the world.

companies like LNG are looking to spend billions of dollars converting
LNG import plants into export plants.  The US could, once again, become a
major exporter of hydrocarbons.  This is not a joke.  The era of the US
being dependent on Middle East oil, is also ending.

Exxon is quietly buying up shale rights in Germany, as is Shell in
Poland.  Australia and Argentina both have massive potential new
reserves.  In short, there appears to be the equivalent of new Saudi
Arabia’s in BTU totals now popping up in western nations.  The US
natural gas reserves are thought to be equal to 2x new Saudi Arabia’s. 
It will take decades to unlock this gas, and make it commercially viable
in the market place.

The EIA, a US Government organization that tracks energy statistics,
reports that the US total reserves of oil increased by 8.6% in 2009. 
The natural gas reserves of the US increased by 11.3% in 2009.  The
official natural gas reserves of the US as of Dec 31st, 2009 were 283 TCF.

Shale gas development in Louisiana, Arkansas, Texas,
Oklahoma, and Pennsylvania drove the increase in proved reserves of
natural gas. Louisiana led the nation in wet natural gas proved reserves
additions with a 77  percent net increase of 9.2 Tcf owing primarily to
development of the Haynesville shale. Both Arkansas (Fayetteville
shale) and Pennsylvania (Marcellus shale) nearly doubled their reserves
with net increases of 5.2 Tcf and 3.4 Tcf respectively. Shale
development in Texas and Oklahoma wasn’t far behind, giving these two
States proved reserves increases of 3.2 Tcf and 2.1 Tcf. These increases
occurred despite a decline in natural gas prices relative to those used
in assessing reserves at the end of 2008. This underscores the role of
more efficient and effective shale gas exploration and productive
technologies such as horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing.

The US currently consumes about 23 TCF per year for context of total
US demand.  The above 283 TCF includes the very first of the new shale
gas, helping to increase total national reserves.

The increase in total potential reserves based on shale development
is expected to be upwards of 1500 – 2000 TCF, once the shale basins have
been fully developed.This gives the US a century at current energy
consumption levels.

In locations like Argentina, mature developed basins are now being
relooked at as a possible source for cheap NG to be exported for
industrial use.  While the world is watching Egypt, and the Suez Canal,
the era of oil fears from the Middle East is drawing to a close.

Natural gas is significantly cleaner, and now that it is about to be
available in very significant quantities in the developed world, the
emerging markets will be impacted too.

  • WSJ

Listening to the Shale Revolution

  • The Fletcher School, Tufts University

The Impact of Shale Gas Technology on Geopoltics

  • EIA (Energy Information Agency)

Summary: US Crude Oil, Natural Gas Liquids Proved Reserves 2009

US Crude Oil Supply & Disposition

  • Natural Gas for Europe

Shale Gas

Wonders Cease


Confessions of a Macro Contrarian

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HungrySeagull's picture

Maybe we can make a big Stirling engine and have sufficient copper or other heat/cold conducting materials driven deep enough to conduct such heat from the earth to run it.

Geothermal would be another option vs solar where we live as well.


Sometimes I am floored by such riches this Planet has to offer in way of energy harnessed by technology and heat transfer to drive something to keep a house or factory going. And yet we do nothing.

steve2241's picture

If you're trying to induce shock and awe in your readership, you've succeeded. This is the first I've heard of this paradigm shift. Do let us know, though, when U.S. oil imports cease, would ya?

lieto's picture

If you think about the true root cause of most of these problems it is that there are too many of us carbon based life forms on good old planet earth. I know that is a comment that will get me junked but the world population needs to decline and we need to find ways to get or keep older workers working longer term to be able to transition to an older general population overall with less population growth.

Fracking is an environmental problem most areas it is used in, particularly with regards to water resources.

Our most energy efficient technology currently available for heat is geothermal assisted heat pumps combined with solar hot water but there has been limited push for wider adoption of these technologies.

Transportation wise intermodal freight using railroads and trucks is the best option for bulk freight.

If we could expand what currently works while working on the next big thing that you all have been discussing we could buy some time, maybe.

It is late in the game already which is the premise that ZH is built on anyway.  

gwar5's picture

The Malthusians need to take their own advice and go first.

I have no problem with that. Or Al Gore riding a bicycle.

But their advice is always for everybody else.

Flakmeister's picture

    By the same token, I hear alot of "advice" here at the Hedge from hypocrites about other things. Hey, if the shoe fits...

LawsofPhysics's picture

Don't worry Nature will win in the end.  Better to keep Al fat.  Better eating and use of his fat to light our candles and make our soap.

anony's picture

You're right about the cause being 7 billion people by 2050.

But there's an impossible gap between the cause and the solution.


OuaisBla's picture

Great post! For energy needs Shale gas is definitely a game changer. Unless environmental issues arise, that line of thoughts is correct.


Watch out for NG to rise to unseen level of price once enviromental issue will force law maker to reduce shale gas developement. Until then, NG price is range bound ready to go to as low as 2$/bcf once the winter cold will be out of the way.


Zeroexperience2010's picture

Another potential game changer: thorium molten salt reactor, the idea is pretty old, the chinese start to build one:



Mr Lennon Hendrix's picture

I am still hoping that the solar revolution happens.  Natural gas is the next generation, but it will peak production between 2040 and 2060, then what will we do? 

CrashisOptimistic's picture

It peaks production then AT CURRENT RATES.  Rates are going up. 

This is the whole problem with the magical spell casters who want to replace oil with natural gas.  Rate of consumption would explode.  The peak would be almost immediate.

This is not the solution, for a most compelling reason -- that being, that there is no solution.  A lot of people are going to die.  



Hulk's picture

After 2060 I won't have much to worry about, worms will be eating my eyeballs!

americanspirit's picture

But you can't eat NG, can you?

LawsofPhysics's picture

No.  Glad to see people still worry about food.  Interesting stat from the USDA.  Currently, 18-20% of ALL fossil fuels in America are burnt simply to drive nitrogen fixation for commercial fertilizer.  Add farming and transport fuels and it goes up to 28%.

Sure there is natural nitrogen fixation, but it is still energy intensive due to the energy required to break the nitrogen-nitrogen triple bond.  We could never feed our current populations by rotating crops with legumes that live symbiotically with nitrogen fixing bacteria.  NO plants fix nitrogen, however some do take up bacteria that do fix nitrogen.  We are seeing dangerously low levels of those bacteria is the soil of certain ecosystems.

Yeah, keep fucking with the planet so we can keep producing ignorant inbred humans to sell plastic shit from China to.

What could possibly go wrong?

Gold, silver and guns bitches.

CrashisOptimistic's picture

A physics tidbit.

One barrel of oil is 42 gallons.  That is 42 gallons X 0.134 cubic ft/gallon = 5.628 cubic feet.

One barrel of oil volume contains 5.8 million BTUs.

One barrel of natural gas volume contains 5779 BTUs.


If you cryocool the natgas (expending energy to do so) you get Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) and one 42 gallon barrel of it holds only 60% of the energy of a barrel of oil, after you expend energy to cool it down, and create infrastructure to pipe it while keeping it cryo cooled, and jump through insurance hoops in that infrastructure to address spillage that kills, etc.  To say nothing of getting someone to insure cars with cryo cooled fuel that will freeze solid anyone it splashes on in a car wreck.

The Honda Civic that runs on natgas uses a pressurized fuel tank to get enough molecules to make any sense at all.  Additionally, to do that, they removed the trunk so that could be done.  That car has no trunk for carrying things.  And it still only has about 2/3 the range of a conventional Honda Civic, and costs 40% more.

This will never work.




LawsofPhysics's picture

Exactly!  Damn those laws of thermodynamics.  Contrary to what one of our senators said during a recent hearing they don't change.  That is the difference between a scientific LAW and a HYPOTHESIS.

But americans and their representatives don't understand MATH which is a prerequisite for understanding thermodynamics.

alex_g's picture

More arithmetic than physics, but i digress. 

Adsorbed Nat Gas tanks hold 40 to 60% (depending on who you believe) energy equiv per volume at 500psi.  That's a shapeable tank, and you can put that in numerous places on a car, truck or van.

Nat Gas is delivered to my house, all in, at $1.65 per GGE.  It costs less than $1000 to convert a car to Nat gas in most countries.

This CAN work.

Rogerwilco's picture

Can't eat it directly, but it does come in handy when making fertilizers. As far as the investment outlook goes, all I can say is UNG. Talk about a good frakking...

topcallingtroll's picture

It wasnt too long ago we were building lng import facilities and alan greenspan warned congress in testimony that we faced a potential lng shortage. Some black swans are a.good.thing. It is too much for me to hope that in five years this solves our energy problems, but there are nice conversion kits that are relatively cheap to convert your car to run on lng. We may still pull off another american century. After all the world hates china more than us so there is a chance we gain allies in our fight to get china to repeg. Sure we may fry the planet and ruin our underground water but that is a worry for another day.

LawsofPhysics's picture

Already converted one of my trucks to run on hydrogen.  Straight pipes baby as the exhaust passes inspection every time, nothing but water vapor.

LawsofPhysics's picture

Oh yeah don't forget all those commodity chemicals for numerous synthetic materials that make our daily lives so much more comfortable.  Yeah we still need to "crack" gas and oil to meet the current demands.

Growth economics is DOA on this very finite planet with very finite resources.

The answer is simple.  Hedge accordingly.


palmereldritch's picture

How is it that all that dinosaur decay produced so much more gas than oil or is it that only the more mobile and buoyant NG is produced abiotically?

LawsofPhysics's picture

Not simply dinosaur decay.  Any and all organic matter being metabolized by microbes.  Most of the organic matter is that left behind by photosynthetic plants and microbes actually.  At the end of the day, the sun represents the only energy source the earth has had or will ever have.  The sun is a fusion reactor (hydrogen fusing to Helium).

Come on cold fusion, where are you!?!?!

Flakmeister's picture

 I'll quibble... radioactivity does contribute to the warming of the earths interior. But it certainly is not a factor in the sense you mean.

palmereldritch's picture

What about heat and pressure (energy) from the Earth's core?

Bonus question:

Name the element signifying young radiological Uranium and Thorium decay that occurs in its highest natural concentration in NG ?

Jay's picture

Helium--and yes, fossil fuels are a myth. The earth would almost be an anomaly in the solar system if methane were not primordial in origin.

Flakmeister's picture

  Abiotic NG exists.... does not imply that abiotic oil exists.

Flakmeister's picture

  If you don't understand the difference, you should not be posting. Brush up on your understanding of hydrocarbon chemistry and what it takes to create chains.

  While you are at it, please explain why all the oil we have found has clear tracers related to a biologic activity and why we only find oil in sedimentary rock. Also please cite evidence of abiotic oil replenishing an existing reservoir.

palmereldritch's picture

"...your understanding of hydrocarbon chemistry and what it takes to create chains."

After you...please cite hydrocarbon chemistry experiments duplicating the conditions of the upper mantle...heat and pressure.

"...all the oil we have found has clear tracers related to a biologic activity"

I’m not saying that the sedimentary rocks structurally capturing the petroleum do not contain biogenic material that would appear in the oil.  Just like I do not infer that water is the product of the pipes that deliver it to my home if it contains trace amounts of the pipe material.

"...we only find oil in sedimentary rock."



"With the White Tiger Field in Vietnam, 90% of the production is coming from basement rock, where there were never any fossils," argues C. Warren Hunt, a geologist in Calgary. "What they've been teaching us in school about oil coming from fossils is wrong."

"Also please cite evidence of abiotic oil replenishing an existing reservoir."



Odd Reservoir Off Louisiana Prods
Oil Experts to Seek a Deeper Meaning


HOUSTON -- Something mysterious is going on at Eugene Island 330.

Production at the oil field, deep in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Louisiana, was supposed to have declined years ago. And for a while, it behaved like any normal field: Following its 1973 discovery, Eugene Island 330's output peaked at about 15,000 barrels a day. By 1989, production had slowed to about 4,000 barrels a day.

Then suddenly -- some say almost inexplicably -- Eugene Island's fortunes reversed. The field, operated by PennzEnergy Co., is now producing 13,000 barrels a day, and probable reserves have rocketed to more than 400 million barrels from 60 million. Stranger still, scientists studying the field say the crude coming out of the pipe is of a geological age quite different from the oil that gushed 10 years ago.

OK.  Your turn, please answer the original question.  Why is it not possible ?

Please provide the hydrocarbon chemistry that explains why NG can be abiotic (by your own admission) but petroleum cannot be created in such a fashion.  And please do not cite the canard about it being impossible to prove a negative outcome as this was your initial proposition.  Thanks.

Flakmeister's picture

  Courtesy of Wiki...

The White Tiger oilfield (m? B?ch H? in Vietnamese) is a major oilfield in the Cuu Long basin of the South China Sea located offshore due east of the Mekong Delta of Vietnam. The field contains major reserves hosted within highly fractured granitic basement rocks. The Cuu Long basin is a rift zone developed during the Oligocene to Early Miocene. The rift occurred in Jurassic to Late Cretaceous granite to granodiorite intrusions.[1][2] The fractured granitic rocks occur as a horst overlain and surrounded by Upper Oligocene lacustrine shale source rocks.[1]

White Tiger is not the only oil field convincingly shown to be hosted in granite;[3] however, inspection of the seismic profile of the area shows faulted basement passive margin which is sealed by an onlapping sedimentary sequence.[4][5]

It is plausible that the oil has migrated laterally from the lowermost, mature sediments into the fault systems within the granite. The seismic profile shows a definite basement horst with onlapping sedimentary source rocks, draped by a reservoir seal.[6] This trap view would see the oil migrate up the horst bounding faults from the lower source units, into the trap unit draped over the top.

Mobil struck oil in the White Tiger field in February 1975, shortly before the Fall of Saigon.[7] It was later developed by the joint Vietnamese-Russian entity Vietsovpetro in the 1980s and 1990s.[3] Upon examination of the source rock and oil content, petrogeologists have emphasized that the oil's components indicate a lacustrine organic facies with lipid-rich, land-plant debris and fresh-water algal material, refuting theories of abiogenic origin in this area.[4]

palmereldritch's picture

Here, I'll provide your argument for this and save you getting up from the post-game show:

Because there is sedimentary rock there it must come from the sedimentary rock because it comes from the sedimentary rock...OK I'm dizzy.  Could have used John Madden on that one...

Flakmeister's picture

  Read what what posted... biological markers. Game, set, match. See ya.

palmereldritch's picture

The biological markers from/in the sedimentary rocks...gotcha

Flakmeister's picture

  Eugene Island was two separate reservoirs connected by a fracture, an abiotic source is not required and has been discredited. Both reservoirs had biologic tracers...Sorry, nice try.

  I'll shoot down the Tiger field after the game....

palmereldritch's picture

There are fractures everywhere in structural traps and areas of tectonic activity.

We can't even measure the oil supply above ground and you have complete seismics and flow analysis of the Eugene Block at that depth?

Nice try. 

gmrpeabody's picture

I'm gonna guess peanut butter. It's just a guess, but I hope I'm right.

When will you give us the answer, Palmer?

gmrpeabody's picture

Wait..., I'm not a 100% sure peanut butter IS an element.

palmereldritch's picture

 Peanut butter is not an element?...wait a minute then what's Pb?  That’s what I thought I was eating...Oh well, no harm, no foul...

Answer: Helium.  Helium detectors are used on rigs as prospecting tools.


Another interesting fact is that every oil field throughout the world has outgassing helium. Helium is so often present in oil fields that helium detectors are used as oil-prospecting tools. Helium is an inert gas known to be a fundamental product of the radiological decay or uranium and thorium, identified in quantity at great depths below the surface of the earth, 200 and more miles below. It is not found in meaningful quantities in areas that are not producing methane, oil or natural gas. It is not a member of the dozen or so common elements associated with life. It is found throughout the solar system as a thoroughly inorganic product.





Analysis on helium isotopes in natural gas in Bohai Bay Basin showed their mantle-origin indicated by high3He/4He ratio. The span of3He/4He ratio increased from west to east. This pattern implied a close relationship to the local tectonic setting.


Terrestrial abundance
Main article: isotope geochemistry

3He is a primordial substance in the Earth's mantle, considered to have become entrapped within the Earth during planetary formation. The ratio of 3He to 4He within the Earth's crust and mantle is less than that for assumptions of solar disk composition as obtained from meteorite and lunar samples, with terrestrial materials generally containing lower 3He/4He ratios due to ingrowth of 4He from radioactive decay.

3He is present within the mantle, in the ratio of 200-300 parts of 3He to a million parts of 4He. Ratios of 3He/4He in excess of atmospheric are indicative of a contribution of 3He from the mantle. Crustal sources are dominated by the 4He which is produced by the decay of radioactive elements in the crust and mantle.

The abiotic theory suggests high He levels with proximity to mantle petroleum generation as in the Eugene Block 330 :


Flakmeister's picture

 A nice summary of Helium but I have no idea what you are getting at and what it has to do with oil.

palmereldritch's picture

The thread is about NG and you admit it can be produced abiotically. 

We're back to the distinction as to why oil cannot be produced abiotically.

Oil is found in abundance in reservoirs with NG as is water.

So to conclude only NG and water can be the product of inorganic chemistry and NOT petroleum in the same reservoir..is that the proposition?

Flakmeister's picture

If by abiotic, you mean primordial, in the sense that methane was part of the original soup that the solar system was formed out of, no problem. Do not play semantics with me. 

I never said it was impossible... but any contribution from abiotic oil (if it exists) is negligible and that is what really matters.

Go troll on theoildrum.com

palmereldritch's picture

Here’s what I mean by abiotic, the generally accepted idea:



I never suggested primordial, you did, so it appears you may be baiting and switching a strawman semantic tactic if you look at the thread history.

I’m still not clear if you are admitting non-primordial abiotic petroleum generation.

I am not trolling, I am just looking to discuss the scientific potential of abiotic petroleum generation.  I sincerely believe this idea has merit.

Perhaps we should chalk this discussion up to the differences between dogma and science.

Dogma is the blind submission to what is while science allows the proposition what if....

Flakmeister's picture

  Go away... as for science, I have authored 20 peer reviewed papers. You are in over your head..

palmereldritch's picture

It appears you are not suggesting that science is a wholly humble objective pursuit immune to dogma, vanity and presumptive authority.

Please link to any of your papers that detail the conversion of biogenic material to petroleum, the amounts of original organic material required to have provided all the petroleum discovered/consumed to date and ideally one that emphasizes analysis of the particular biogenic material type in the sedimentary rocks optimal for petroleum generation (not original deposit environments) rather than the traditional petroleum reservoir geology emphasis on porosity and permeability.

Thanks in advance.

P.S.  If you are a scientist, perhaps the evolution of the acceptance of the meteoric impact theory for dinosaur extinction is a good example of how set theories change.   In retrospect this is instructive in view of its current acceptance by the scientific community considering the vitriolic dogmatic scientific opposition it originally received.

It's impressive that you have authored 20 peer reviewed papers.  Congratulations.

For me I'll have to go with Freeman Dyson on abiotic petroleum considerations...you've heard of him haven't you?



He's not an expert in this field either but I will have to defer to his scientific accomplishments over yours unless evidence to the contrary is provided.




Big Corked Boots's picture

I'm looking at the Periodic Table and, sure enough, Pb is on it. Must be an element.

No J though.

LawsofPhysics's picture

We are well beyond a sustainable human population (at least for lifestyles that most Americans feel that they are "entitled" too).  Sorry suckers Nature makes no promises regarding your survival, much less a McMansion and 2.5 cars for 7 billion people.  We either go get this gas or we start eating each other.  First politically and figuratively, but then quite literally.  Most of us will be long gone but will get a glimpse of as the riots  over the next 20 years intensify.  Fun stuff.

Fresh water is going to be another issue entirely, regardless of whether we get the gas or not, might as well get the gas.  It gives us something else to burn (efficiently actually) in order to fix nitrogen for fertilizer and desalinize water.

The sustainability train left the station a long time ago.