A consistent rationale for shale gas deniers in Europe has been that Europe is much more crowded than the wide open spaces of the US. Which, as usual needs to be taken in context. European population is very concentrated in towns, cities and even villages.The majority of European settlement was defined by walking distance. That leaves huge areas of empty space in between very crowded urban areas. US land use is of course defined by the automobile which means it sprawls.
However, one can't deny there are some seriously empty places in the US. For example in the Eagle Ford play, Live Oak County Texas has a mere 5 people per square KM
According to the Europe is too crowded theory, Live Oak County should look something like this:
And who would want this in their European back yard? Not me. But this picture is of vertical tight gas wells in Colorado from the 20th century.It also unfortunately gets published on many anti shale sites and major news organisations. This one comes from the UK Daily Telegraph, who are allegedly sympathetic to shale! Anyone even remotely NIMBY will see a picture like this and get the petition going and the web site up.
Europe will naturally leapfrog stages of shale development. Instead of 1990's technology, we'll use today's best practice. As drilling in the Eagle Ford is barely eighteen months old, it's just the type of area to provide a prediction of what the European landscape will actually look like three or four years from now. The lesson the Eagle Ford tell us is that even in an empty area where land use is not a constraint, well cost is a constraint. Why drill more wells than you have to? Judging by well permit applications from the local Eagle Ford press, advance in horizontal drilling show that the well pad foot print is getting smaller and smaller every day:
Cinco Natural Resources of Dallas has filed permits to drill three 11,500-foot horizontal wells in the Eagleville (Eagle Ford-2) field. The Nos. 4H, 5H and 6H Julie Beck will all be located 21.8 miles northeast of Three Rivers in the J. J. Poindexter Survey A-319.
Translate this into Europe and we could see wells spaced every 5 square miles. Hardly a blot on the landscape of a crowded Europe. Imagine three wells in a space the size of Central London (Earls Court to Canary Wharf and Edgware Road to the Thames), six in all of Manhattan or eight in all Paris. Suddenly Europe doesn't seem so crowded. But as usual in shale, the news gets even better:
Pioneer Natural Resources USA of Dallas has filed for a permit to drill a 21,000-foot horizontal well in the Eagleville (Eagle Ford-2) field. The No. 03H James Keith Esse will be locate4d 2.73 miles northeast of Whitsett in the J.H. Gibson Survey A-211.
Pioneer has also filed for permits to drill two 21,000-foot horizontal wells in the Sugarkane (Eagle Ford) field. The No. 01H David Saenz 01 will be located 8.52 miles southwest of Pawnee in the R.C. Hatton Survey A-218 and the No. 01H Frank Malek 01 will be drilled 8.68 miles southeast of Whitsett in the John Sawyer Survey A-420
Twenty one thousand feet horizontals could mean one pad draining over over 15 square miles or 40 square kilometers. .One well for Central London, two for Manhattan, two and half for Paris. Bang goes the Europe is too crowded theory.
While we're in the Eagle Ford, let's consider the payback for all the disruption those wells might cause us and how soon we could achieve it. We have to ask ourselves which is the more accurate, scary or inspiring image? The outdated photo above or this amazing graph showing barrels of oil produced in the Eagle Ford: