New York Times no Wiki Leaks of shale
- Published Date
- Written by Nick Grealy
Today's NYT piece on shale is not the Wiki Leaks or smoking gun of shale it purports to be:
Natural gas companies have been placing enormous bets on the wells they are drilling, saying they will deliver big profits and provide a vast new source of energy for the United States.
But the gas may not be as easy and cheap to extract from shale formations deep underground as the companies are saying, according to hundreds of industry e-mails and internal documents and an analysis of data from thousands of wells.
In the e-mails, energy executives, industry lawyers, state geologists and market analysts voice skepticism about lofty forecasts and question whether companies are intentionally, and even illegally, overstating the productivity of their wells and the size of their reserves. Many of these e-mails also suggest a view that is in stark contrast to more bullish public comments made by the industry, in much the same way that insiders have raised doubts about previous financial bubbles.
Those of us who know shale can predict who will turn up by the third word, although he doesn't make it until page three
“This kind of data is making it harder and harder to deny that the shale gas revolution is being oversold,” said Art Berman, a Houston-based geologist who worked for two decades at Amoco and has been one of the most vocal skeptics of shale gas economics.
Which is why he makes a living at it. He's just about the only one standing on this. Almost every other e-mail quoted in the piece is from 2009, an eon ago in shale as I pointed out in my comment, which will get published sooner or later.
The Times does quote Terry Engelder, but in a way that makes it sound as if he has an identity of views with Berman:
Terry Engelder, a professor of geosciences at Pennsylvania State University, said the debate over long-term well performance was far from resolved. The Haynesville shale has not lived up to early expectations, he said, but industry projections have become more accurate and some wells in the Marcellus shale, which stretches from Virginia to New York, are outperforming expectations.
Terry Engelder's reputation on shale towers over Berman and he is an expert on the Marcellus: he basically discovered the massive size of the resources of a field which just keeps on growing and is now the second largest gas field of any type in the world compared to unknown five years ago. To say some wells are outperforming expectations is understatement in the extreme: They are monstrous
Dr. Engelder compared the average cumulative production for Marcellus wells drilled horizontally in the shale in a five-county core area in the Northcentral and Northeast part of the state last year to predictions about the average cumulative production of Marcellus wells released by Chesapeake Energy to investors in 2008.
The actual numbers last year surpassed the company's expectations, even though "expectations were quite high," Dr. Engelder said.
"Everybody is going to be happy with these numbers," he said. "These numbers are huge."
And that is before the recent surge in oil production and the size of the Utica Shale resources under the Marcellus.
What the Times will do unfortunately is confuse things even further. The average reader is no wiser on economics and geology than he or she is on the reality of energy, oil, gas, chemicals or water. What is consistent on all these attacks, apart from being out-dated and out-of-context, is that it unfortunately places the shale debate on to the same tired old left/right field and it only confuses those outside of the US even further. Even more certain is that we'll be sure to see this article pop up in the UK and French press within hours.