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Reports: Fracking, Aided by Wall Street, Causing New Housing Bubble

11:10 am in Uncategorized by Steve Horn

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

Fracking Rig

Fracking and Wall Street Creating a New Housing Bubble

Two long-awaited reports were published today at ShaleBubble.org by the Post Carbon Institute (PCI) and the Energy Policy Forum (EPF).

Together, the reports conclude that the hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) boom could lead to a “bubble burst” akin to the housing bubble burst of 2008.

While most media attention towards fracking has focused on the threats to drinking water and health in communities throughout North America and the world, there is an even larger threat looming.  The fracking industry has the ability – paralleling the housing bubble burst that served as a precursor to the 2008 economic crisis – to tank the global economy.

Playing the role of Cassandra, the reports conclude that “the so-called shale revolution is nothing more than a bubble, driven by record levels of drilling, speculative lease & flip practices on the part of shale energy companies, fee-driven promotion by the same investment banks that fomented the housing bubble…” a summary details. “Geological and economic constraints – not to mention the very serious environmental and health impacts of drilling – mean that shale gas and shale oil (tight oil) are far from the solution to our energy woes.”

PCI’s report is titled “Drill Baby, Drill,” authored by PCI Fellow and former oil and gas industry geoscientist J. Dave Hughes, while EPF’s report is titled “Shale Gas and Wall Street,” authored by EPF Director and former Wall Street financial analyst Deborah Rogers.

“100 Years of Natural Gas”? Uh huh…

In President Barack Obama’s 2012 State of the Union address, he repeated the fracking industry’s favorite mantra: there are “100 years” of natural gassitting beneath us.

“We have a supply of natural gas that can last America nearly 100 years, and my administration will take every possible action to safely develop this energy,” he stated.

Hughes concludes that the “100 years” trope serves as a disinformation smokescreen and at current production rates, there are – at best – 25 years under the surface.

Industry proponents rely on a figure known as “technically recoverable reserves” when they promote the potential of shale basins. The figure that actually matters though, is production rates, or what the wells actually pull out of the reserves when fracked.

In the case of U.S. shale gas, the booked reserves are operating on what Hughes coins a “drilling treadmill,” suffering from the law of “diminishing returns.”

Hughes analyzed the industry’s production data for 65,000 wells from 31 shale basins nationwide utilizing the DI Desktop/HPDI database, widely used both by the industry and the U.S. government. He sums up the quagmire he discovered in doing so, writing,

Wells experience severe rates of depletion…This steep rate of depletion requires a frenetic pace of drilling…to offset declines. Roughly 7,200 new shale gas wells need to be drilled each year at a cost of over $42 billion simply to maintain current levels of production. And as the most productive well locations are drilled first, it’s likely that drilling rates and costs will only increase as time goes on.

The reality, he explains, is that five shale gas basins currently produce 80 percent of the U.S. shale gas bounty and those five are all in steep production rate decline.

And shale oil? More of the same.

Over 80 percent of the oil produced and marketed comes from two basins: Texas’ Eagle Ford Shale and North Dakota’s Bakken Shale, both of which are visible from outer space satellites.

“[T]aken together shale gas and tight oil require about 8,600 wells per year at a cost of over $48 billion to offset declines,” Hughes writes. “Tight oil production is projected to…peak in 2017 at 2.3 million barrels per day [and be tapped by about 2025]…In short, tight oil production from these plays will be a bubble of about ten years’ duration.”

At current production rates, Hughes concludes, there is 5 billion barrels of shale oil located underneath the Bakken and Eagle Ford, which equates to ameasly ten months worth of oil at current runaway climate change-causing U.S. oil consumption rates.

PCI accompanied Hughes’ report with 43 charts and graphs and a digital U.S. map with the production data of all 65,000 fracking wells in the lower 48.

Wall Street’s Complicity

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Fracking Making Its Way Toward the UK

1:39 pm in Uncategorized by Steve Horn

To frack or not to frack

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

To date, opposition to hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) for unconventional oil and gas in the United Kingdom (UK) has been fierce. The opposition, though, seems to be meeting deaf ears in England, according to recent news reports.

Bloomberg reported on Dec. 4 that England’s Energy Secretary, Ed Davey, wants to lift the country’s currently existing moratorium on fracking. The halt was put in place after drilling sites owned by Cuadrilla Resources caused two minor earthquakes in northwestern England in November 2011.

England’s Chancellor of the Exchequer (a position equivalent to the Secretary of the Treasury in the United States), George Osborne, is set to release Britain’s new energy plan on Dec. 5 and told Bloomberg he wants to ensure “Britain is not left behind” in the unconventional oil and gas boom.

“Cuadrilla estimates that the area it is exploring in Lancashire, in northwestern England, could contain 200 trillion cubic feet of gas—more gas than all of Iraq,” explained Bloomberg. John Browne, the scandal-ridden former CEO of BP, sits as the Chairman of the Board of Directors of Cuadrilla.

Osborne, The Independent recently reported, will also offer tax breaks to oil and gas corporations hungry to profit from England’s shale gas prize.

“Mr. Osborne hopes that tax breaks for shale gas extraction will encourage investors and help economic growth,” The Indepedent wrote. ”Oil and gas are currently taxed at between 62 per cent and 81 per cent. Shale gas would be taxed at lower rates.”

An astounding 64-percent of the English countryside could soon be subject to fracking, which is over 34,000 square miles, according to The Independent.

Fracking in Ireland on Hold For Now

England’s neighbor to the west, Ireland, also sits on massive reserves of unconventional oil and gas yet to be tapped.

A recent independent assessment, according to The Financial Times, estimates Ireland’s stockpile of shale gas at up to 13 trillion cubic feet of technically recoverable gas. The Marcellus Shale, by comparison, which sits predominantly in Pennsylvania and New York, has 84 TCF of shale gas according to the most recent estimates by the United States Geological Survey (USGS).

Estimates of technically recoverable shale gas have proven controversial in the United States, though, with critics such as Bill Powers, Art Berman, Deborah Rogers, and Food and Water Watch all saying actual production rates have proven far lower than the estimations on what’s technically feasible. This ongoing trend, these critics say, portends the bursting of the “shale gas bubble” akin to the bursting of the “housing bubble” in 2008.

Ireland’s Environmental Protection Agency is set to publish a report on the potential ecological risks of fracking in the country by 2014 and until then, the Irish ban on fracking will remain in place.

The question still remains: Is there as much gas under the ground in The Emerald Isle as the industry currently boasts of? The answer: Not likely.

Image by SS&SS under Creative Commons license.