Shale gas is a type of natural gas which is obtained from a rock known as the shale rock whose deposits is found underground. In the recent past, shale gas has continued to grow in popularity as a non-conventional energy source around the world as compared to coal and other energy sources. Its popularity can be attributed to a number of factors. First and foremost, there exists a vast shale gas resource base worldwide. The largest world shale oil deposits are found in U.S.A. followed by Brazil which has the second largest shale oil deposits. According to geology.com (2012), the technically recoverable shale gas resources in thirty two countries around the world are approximately 5,760 trillion cubic feet. North America alone is said to have an estimated 1,000 trillion cubic feet of shale gas resource which is enough to sustain the whole of America’s natural gas demand for at least fifty years (Haluzan 2010). . According to ghutch (2010), EIA reported that the total natural gas supply by U.S. in 2009 comprised of a 14% shale gas share and that this is projected to increase to 45% by the year 2035. There are increased prospects for future exploration of shale gas. In the U.S the production of this type of energy increased by 17% between the years 2000 to 2006 per year. The production went on to increase to 48% per year between 2006 and 2010. The supply of shale gas is estimated to last for at least 34 years. This is because technically recoverable amounts of the gas in U.S are 861.7 tcf and the rates for its use are estimated to remain at 24 tcf (Freeland 2011).
Shale gas is also acclaimed for its impact on the environment wherein it releases less carbon emissions to the environment as compared to its counterpart, coal. The harmful effects of the carbon emissions from coal are reduced by half when shale gas is used instead (Haluzan 2010). The availability of this energy form in the U.S will reduce the risks involved during exploration because it is beyond speculation that it can be extracted for production. Shale energy’s production is close to finished product market. The market for this form of energy is substantial enough to ensure growth and development of this particular industry making it lucrative for investors who are willing to invest given the guarantee on returns.
The United States of America is seeing increasing interest in shale energy exploration and production (Freeland 2011). This is because the people involved and the community at large is driven with the need for energy security. The energy markets are affected by globalization and the increased international interdependence. Nations which require more energy or a particular type of energy to drive their economies will thus require engaging with the nation’s producing that energy they need (Freeland 2011). This means that incase there are issues or problems that arise in the producing country then the consuming country’s system is negatively affected. This was mostly experienced in the oil market during the Arab uprisings in 2011 which saw an increase in fuel prices internationally. Energy security may not be guaranteed because most of the countries with large oil or natural gas reserves are situated in developing countries. In the U.S the energy industry is striving towards energy independence where they can produce enough to meet their needs (Freeland 2011). Shale gas will create diversity for the American energy market and thus enhance fuel supply resilience. Shale gas is stated to be among the most productive of the unconventional natural gas category. This has led to a push for its exploration and development (Freeland 2011).
Unlike the old drilling tools which could only drill one way, the new ones can penetrate the earth’s surface directionally and can access the regions beyond the drill rig leading to increased rates of penetration while at the same time reducing chances of drill-string sticking (Congress Research Services 2009). There are two drilling techniques that have been developed to facilitate shale gas extraction. The first one which is the horizontal drilling entails the sinking of a vertical well to provide access to the producing shale. From here, a horizontal drill is done to expose a wider surface of the producing shale. Hydraulic Fracturing also known as “hydrofracking” is then applied to allow the trapped natural gas to flow into the well. Through “hydrofracking” substances such as water, sand and chemicals are pumped at high pressure and shot towards the shale formations forming cracks that give way for the shale gas to flow (Congress Research Services 2009).
In conclusion, there are two factors that attest to the increased production of this form of energy. The first is the directional drilling technique combined with Hydraulic Fracturing. The second factor is the economic viability the shale energy has improved. Shale energy is projected to cause a future revolution in the energy industry not only in the U.S., but the world over. This is as a result of its availability in substantial amounts in virtually every continent and with the technological developments that have enhanced its extraction and production; it is no wonder that coal and other conventional sources of energy will be a thing of the past.
Congress Research Services, 2009. Unconventional Gas Shales: Development,Technology, and Policy Issues. s.l.: s.n.
EIA, 2010. What is shale gas and why is it important? Hutchinson Business Solutions, [blog] 17 December. Available at: http://ghutch.wordpress.com/2010/12/17/what-is-shale-gas-and why-is-it-important/ [20 March 2012].
Freeland, N. C., 2011. The Strategic Importance of Shale Gas. Center for Strategic Leadership, 16(11), 2-4.
Geology.com, 2012.World Shale Gas Resources. [online] Available at: http://geology.com/energy/world-shale-gas/ [Accessed 20 March 2012].
Haluzan, N., 2010. Shale gas advantages and disadvantages. [online] s.l.: s.n. Available at http://www.renewables info.com/drawbacks_and_benefits/shale_gas_advantages_and_disadvantages.html. [20 March 2012].