How the US Shale Boom Will Change the World – by Gary Hunt ( – February 15, 2012)

A funny thing is happening on the way to the clean energy future–reality is setting in. There is ‘incontrovertible evidence’ about the economic growth and job creating effects of America’s unconventional oil and gas production boom – more than 600,000 jobs directly attributable to shale gas development. Even President Obama is praising the job creating benefits of ‘America’s resource boom’. America is getting its energy mojo back and that is good news but not the entire story.

How Much Shale Gas is there in the United States? In July 2011 US EIA released a [Review of Emerging Resources: US Shale Gas and Shale Oil Plays produced by INTEK. This is an updated assessment of onshore lower 48 states technically recoverable shale gas and shale oil resources. The assessment found the lower 48 states have a total 750 trillion cubic feet of technically recoverable shale gas resources with the largest portions in the Northeast (63%), Gulf Coast (13%), and Southwest regions (10%) respectively.

The largest shale gas plays are the Marcellus (410.3 trillion cubic feet, 55 percent of the total), Haynesville (74.7 trillion cubic feet, 10 percent of the total), and Barnett (43.4 trillion cubic feet, 6 percent of the total).The INTEK assessment was incorporated into the Onshore Lower 48 Oil and Gas Supply Submodule (OLOGSS) within the Oil and Gas Supply Module (OGSM) of NEMS to project oil and natural gas production for the Annual Energy Outlook 2011 (AEO2011) to provide a starting point for future work.

Total US recoverable natural gas resources (includes conventional, unconventional in lower 48, Alaska and offshore) totals 4.244 quadrillion cubic feet according to the Institute for Energy Research:

• Enough natural gas to meet US electricity demand for 575 years at current fuel demand for generation levels
• Enough natural gas to fuel homes heated by natural gas in the United States for 857 years
• More natural gas than Russia, Iran, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Turkmenistan combined.

The US has Three Times the Proven Reserves of Saudi Arabia in Shale Oil. Global oil shale resources exceed 10 trillion barrels. More than 1.8 trillion barrels of oil are trapped in shale in Federal lands in the western United States in the states of Colorado, Utah and Wyoming, of which 800 billion is considered recoverable–three times the proven reserves of Saudi Arabia. The INTEK assessment for EIA found 23.9 billion barrels of technically recoverable shale oil resources in the onshore Lower 48 States. The Southern California Monterey/Santos play is the largest shale oil formation estimated to hold 15.4 billion barrels or 64 percent of the total shale oil resources followed by Bakken and Eagle Ford with approximately 3.6 billion barrels and 3.4 billion barrels of oil, respectively.

New Jobs Creation is driven by Low Cost Energy. A report from PricewaterhouseCoopers for the National Association of Manufacturers says low cost domestic natural gas will save $11 billion per year in US manufacturing costs over the next ten years and create more than a million new jobs. This new low cost energy reality is expected to increase disposable income by $2,000 per year per household in the United States. The growth in domestic natural gas production from unconventional sources (shale gas) has decoupled domestic North American gas prices from world oil and LNG prices, reversed the once expected US dependence on imported LNG, and driven down prices to near record low levels from long term reliable domestic energy supply.

New Jobs Creation Leads to Growing Worries over Skills Shortages and Fierce Competition for Talent. Just as the shale growth phenomenon takes off, the market face a looming new reality that more than 10,000 baby boomers per day will begin retiring in the US alone. The same fate or worse affects other global markets. The good news is the demand for experience, skills and technology expertise among workers in the oil and gas industry means that many will be coaxed into working longer or auctioning off their expertise to refill their retirement accounts left shattered by the great global recession.

 The demand for replacement skills is expected to swell the ranks of engineering, technology developers, science, math and software training programs and universities to meet that need. But the bigger need will be welders, plumbers, electricians, skilled machinists and other crafts to install and operate the equipment and support the technology deployment around the world.

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