.Shale gas hasbecome an increasingly important source of natural gas in the United States over the past decade,and interest has spread to potential gas shales in the rest of the world. One analyst expects shalegas to supply as much as half the natural gas production in North America by 2020.
A study bytheBaker Institute of Public PolicyatRice Universityconcluded that increased shale gasproduction in the US and Canada could help prevent Russia and Persian Gulf countries fromdictating higher prices for the gas it exports to European countries.
,in shallow, low-pressurefractures. Work on industrial-scale shale gas mining did not begin until the 1970s, whendeclining production potential from conventional gas deposits in the United States spurred thefederal government to invest in R&D and demonstration projects
.Mitchell Energy, a Texas gas company, utilized all these component technologies and techniquesto achieve the first economical shale fracture in 1998 using an innovative process called slick-water fracturing
.Since then, natural gas from shale has been the fastest growing contributorto total primary energy (TPE) in the United States, and has led many other countries to pursueshale deposits. According to the IEA, the economical extraction of shale gas more than doublesthe projected production potential of natural gas, from 125 years to over 250 years
Illustration of shale gas compared to other types of gas deposits.Because shales ordinarily have insufficientpermeabilityto allow significant fluid flow to a wellbore, most shales are not commercial sources of natural gas. Shale gas is one of a number of unconventional sources of natural gas; other unconventional sources of natural gas includecoalbed methane,tight sandstones,andmethane hydrates.Shale gas areas are often known as
Shalehas lowmatrixpermeability, so gas production in commercial quantities requires fracturesto provide permeability. Shale gas has been produced for years from shales with naturalfractures; the shale gas boom in recent years has been due to modern technology inhydraulicfracturing(fracking) to create extensive artificial fractures around well bores.
and are usually mature petroleumsource rocksin thethermogenic gas window, where high heat and pressure have converted petroleum to natural gas.They are sufficiently brittle and rigid enough to maintain open fractures. In some areas, shaleintervals with high naturalgamma radiationare the most productive, as high gamma radiation isoften correlated with high organic carbon content.
Some of the gas produced is held in natural fractures, some in pore spaces, and some isadsorbedonto the organic material. The gas in the fractures is produced immediately; the gas adsorbedonto organic material is released as the formation pressure is drawn down by the well.
US President Obama's administration has sometimes promoted shale gas, in part because of theirbelief that it releases fewergreenhouse gas(GHG) emissions than other fossil fuels, but somescientists have urged caution. In a May 2010 letter to President Obama, the Council of ScientificSociety Presidents
cautioned against a national policy of developing shale gas without a morecertain scientific basis for the policy. This umbrella organization that represents 1.4 millionscientists noted that shale gas might actually aggravate global warming, rather than help mitigateit.
issued a new report, the first updateon emission factors for greenhouse gas emissions by the oil and gas industry by the EPA since1996. In this new report, EPA concluded that shale gas emits larger amounts of methane,apotent greenhouse gas, than does conventional gas, but still far less than coal. Methane is a verypowerful greenhouse gas, although it stays in the atmosphere for only one tenth as long a periodas carbon dioxide. Recent evidence suggests that methane has a global warming potential (GWP)that is 105-fold greater than carbon dioxide when viewed over a 20-year period and 33-foldgreater when viewed over a 100-year period, compared mass-to-mass.
In that peer-reviewed paper,Cornell Universityprofessor Robert W.Howarth, a marine ecologist, and colleagues claimed that once methane leak and venting impactsare included, the life-cycle greenhouse gas footprint of shale gas is far worse than those of coaland fuel oil when viewed for the integrated 20-year period after emission. On the 100-yearintegrated time frame, this analysis claims shale gas is comparable to coal and worse than fueloil. However, numerous studies have pointed out critical flaws with that paper and/or come tocompletely different conclusions, including assessments by experts at the U.S. Department of Energy,