What Is Tight Gas, and How Is It Produced?

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While conventional natural gas streams from the earth relatively easily, unconventional gas finds are more difficult to develop and more costly to produce. As technologies and skills improve, unconventional gas is a variable concept because some finds may become more easily or economically produced over time, no longer making them unconventional. Right now, there are six main types of unconventional gas, including deep gas, gas-containing shales, coalbed methane, geopressurized zones, Arctic and subsea hydrates, and tight gas.

Major Tight Gas Reserves in the USSource: EIA, www.eia.doe.gov

Unconventional natural gas deposits are likely to account for much of the world's remaining reserves. According to the EIA, there is more than 309 Tcf of recoverable tight natural gas deposits in the US, which represents some 17% of the total natural gas reserves in the country. Helping to boost interest in developing technologies that can overcome the challenges of producing unconventional gas resources in the United States, the Natural Gas Policy Act offers incentives to companies exploring for and producing unconventional gas plays.

Without secondary production methods. lessening permeability -.5 darcy.or the ability of the gas to travel through the rock.gov While a conventional gas formation can be relatively easily drilled and extracted from the ground unassisted. the pores in the rock formation in which the gas is trapped are either irregularly distributed or badly connected with overly narrow capillaries. A survey might be able to locate an area that portrays an improved porosity or permeability in the rock in . In other words.01 to . tight gas requires more effort to pull it from the ground because of the extremely tight formation in which it is located. also known as tight sand. Developing Tight Gas One of the most important aspects of drilling for any petroleum is predetermining the success rate of the operation. Impermeable Pores in Tight Gas FormationSource: USGS. as well as artificial stimulation. Extensive seismic data is gathered and analyzed to determine where to drill and just what might be located below the earth's surface. the rock formations have been compacted and have undergone cementation and recrystallisation. tight gas formations are much older. While conventional gas formations tend to be found in the younger Tertiary basins. tight gas formations are typically found in Palaeozoic formations." Tight gas can also be trapped in sandstone or limestone formations that are atypically impermeable or nonporous. Operators do not just drill anywhere. Deviating drilling practices and more specific seismic data can help in tapping tight gas. www. Over time. there are a number of additional procedures that can be enacted to help produce tight gas. which all reduce the level of permeability in the rock. These seismic surveys can help to pinpoint the best areas to tap tight gas reserves. but the formations trapping tight gas reserves portray permeability levels of merely a fraction of that. Typical conventional natural gas deposits boast a permeability level of .energy. making the underground formation extremely "tight.What Is Tight Gas? Tight gas refers to natural gas reservoirs locked in extraordinarily impermeable. hard rock. Deposited some 248 million years ago. measuring in the millidarcy or microdarcy range. gas from a tight formation would flow at very slow rates. making production uneconomical.usgs. In order to overcome the challenges that the tight formation presents. such as fracturing and acidizing.

extensive seismic surveys can help drilling engineers determine where and to what extent drilling directions should be deviated. it is important to expose as much of the reservoir as possible.mackenziegasproject. Directional DrillingSource: MacKenzie Gas Project. This can be achieved through drilling myriad directional wells from one location. www. advancements inmarine seismic technologies are now being applied to land seismic surveys. they are not the most conducive to developing tight gas. opening up more opportunities for the natural gas to enter the wellbore. the more the gas will be able to escape the formation. The more the formation is tapped. Not only providing operators with the best locations for drilling wells into tight gas formations. Production Stimulation . or measuring vibrations produced by purpose-built trucks. and land seismic techniques are undergoing transformations to better map out where drilling and development of these unconventional plays. While these techniques can produce informational surveys. In a tight gas formation. enhancing the information available about the world below. A common technique for developing tight gas reserves includes drilling more wells. Most tight gas formations are found onshore. costs of development can be minimized. making horizontal and directional drilling a must. lessening the operator's footprint and lowering costs.which the gas is located.com While vertical wells may be easier and less expensive to drill. Should wells directly hit the best area to develop the reserve. the well can run along the formation. Typical land seismic techniques include exploding dynamite and vibroseis. Here.

hydraulic fracturing is achieved by pumping the well full of frac fluids under high pressure to break the rocks in the reservoir apart and improve permeability. Performed after the well has been drilled andcompleted. Acidation involves pumping the well with acids that dissolve the limestone.After seismic data has illuminated the best well locations. also known as "fracing." a well involves breaking the rocks in the formation apart. In many tight gas formations. tight gas will no longer be considered an unconventional play. Additionally. such as using a beam pumping system to remove the water from the reservoir. This form of production stimulation helps to reinvigorate permeability by reestablishing the natural fissures that were present in the formation before compaction and cementation. maybe one day. This water can collect and undermine production processes. Production stimulation can be achieved on tight gas reservoirs through both fracturing and acidizing the wells. deliquification of the tight gas wells can help to overcome some production challenges. the reservoirs also contain small amounts of water. acidizing the well is employed to improve permeability and production rates of tight gas formations. although this has not proven the most effective way to overcome this challenge. Deliquification is achieved in this instance through artificial lift techniques. production stimulation is employed on tight gas reservoirs to promote a greater rate of flow. dolomite and calcite cement between the sediment grains of the reservoir rocks. Engineers continue to develop new techniques and technologies to better produce tight gas. Fracturing. How Does LNG Work? • • • • . or the ability of the gas to flow through the formation. Through their efforts. and the wells have been drilled. Furthermore.

The next step in processing is determined by what type of transport the gas will undergo. gas is liquefied and transported internationally via tankers and then regasified into its original state for distribution and sale. stranded gas reservoirs. LNG Liquefaction PlantSource: Center for Liquefied Natural Gas LNG has transformed the natural gas market. Liquefaction When in the reservoir. which restricts the number of end users. As a gas. natural gas is inherently a domestic product. In other words. for which pipelines were too costly to construct. making previously unrecoverable natural gas finds an economic reality. can now be produced. which is dissolved in the oil. This way. natural gas is found in three states: non-associated. and associated gas. where there is no oil contact. the conversion process determines which preliminary process must be used. Additionally. where it is overlying an oil reserve. With LNG. acid gases and heavy hydrocarbons from the recovered natural gas. after regasification the fuel can be loaded directing into the distribution network of pipelines. transformed into LNG and transported via tanker. The composition of the natural gas defines how it will be processed for transport. Whether staying in its gaseous state or being transformed into a liquid. . natural gas from the well must undergo separation processes to remove water. When chemical conversion is used to liquefy natural gas. LNG is approximately 1/600th the volume of the same amount of natural gas. Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) was developed in 1964 as a solution to this problem.Because of its physical state. For LNG. fractionation between methane and heavier hydrocarbons is performed during liquefaction. gas cap. the hydrocarbon must be transported by pipeline. the hydrocarbon takes up significantly less space as a liquid than a gas. additional processing is required before the condensation of the gas to remove the threat of crystallization in the heat exchangers in the liquefaction plant. Additionally. and specifications are met according to the transportation system.

Through autorefrigeration any additions of heat are offset by the energy lost from the LNG vapor. LNG is kept in its liquid form via autorefrigeration. vented out of the storage and used to power the tanker. LNG is mainly constituted of methane and generally contains ethane. This temperature drop liquefies the methane present in the natural gas. Transportation LNG is then introduced into specially insulated tankers and transported around the world. . This is a process in which the fuel is kept at its boiling point.LNG Liquefaction PlantSource: Center for Liquefied Natural Gas Natural gas is liquefied by lowering the temperature of the hydrocarbon to approximately -260 degrees Fahrenheit (-160 degrees Celsius). Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) may also be present in the LNG. as well. making transportation at atmospheric pressure in the form of LNG possible.

When LNG is vaporized into its gaseous form. Regasification . Additionally.LNG Being Loaded Onto a TankerSource: Center for Liquefied Natural Gas LNG Tanker at SeaSource: Center for Liquefied Natural Gas LNG has little to no chance of igniting or exploding should a spill occur. LNG and the vapors associated with it do not explode in an open environment. the fuel will only burn when mixed with air in concentrations of 5 and 15%.

According to the US Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).8% or 4. the free encyclopedia . the country imports LNG from Trinidad and Tobago. LNG is gaining momentum. as well as the Olokola LNG project in Nigeria and the LionGas LNG project in the Netherlands. According to the EIA. Nigeria. Shale gas From Wikipedia. Australia. Oman. LNG imports are expected to increase to an average of 15. European countries also import a large percentage of the LNG produced globally. there are currently eight LNG processing facilities in operation in the country. and the Middle East is also a leading LNG exporting region. Emerging markets for the fuel are China and India. there are 40 additional LNG projects under consideration in the US. Historically some of the largest importers of LNG. although those countries are currently pursuing major pipeline deals in an effort to increase their natural gas imports. Major ongoing LNG projects include the multi-billiondollar GorgonLNG project in Australia.8 Tcf of the natural gas used in the US by 2025. LNG represents only about 1% of the natural gas consumed in the United States. Right now. to the end users. Indonesia and the UAE. Japan and South Korea depend almost solely on internationally produced LNG for their natural gas needs. The LNG is dehydrated into a gaseous state again through a process that involves passing the LNG through a series of vaporizers that reheat the fuel above the -260 degree Fahrenheit (-160 degrees Celsius) temperature mark. Currently. Algeria. the LNG is offloaded from the tanker and either stored or regasified. countries in Asia Pacific are the largest exporters of LNG. Applications Although limited because of the number of liquefaction and regasification facilities located worldwide. seven are regasification plants. The fuel is then sent via established transportation methods. Presently. such as pipelines. Qatar.LNG Regasification PlantSource: Center for Liquefied Natural Gas Once it has reached its destination. and one is a liquefaction facility.

48 Shale basins in 38 nations.For gas generated by oil shale pyrolysis.[5] Contents [hide] • • • • • • 1 Geolog y 2 Enviro nment 3 Econo mics 4 See also 5 Refere nces 6 Extern al links [edit]Geology . Shale gas has become an increasingly important source of natural gas in the United States over the past decade. there is growing evidence that the extraction and use of shale gas results in the release of more greenhouse gases than conventional natural gas. and interest has spread to potential gas shales in the rest of the world. One analyst expects shale gas to supply as much as half the natural gas production in North America by 2020. per the EIA Shale gas is natural gas produced from shale.[1][dead link] Some analysts expect that shale gas will greatly expand worldwide energy supply.[3] The Obama administration believes that increased shale gas development will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions.[2] A study by the Baker Institute of Public Policy at Rice University concluded that increased shale gas production in the US and Canada could help prevent Russia and Persian Gulf countries from dictating higher prices for the gas it exports to European countries. see Oil shale gas.[4]However. and may lead to emissions greater than those of oil or coal.

other unconventional sources of natural gas includecoalbed methane. with lateral lengths up to 10. shale intervals with high natural gamma radiationare the most productive. the gas adsorbed onto organic material is released as the formation pressure is drawn down by the well. and methane hydrates.000 m) within the shale. and some is adsorbed onto the organic material. This umbrella organization that represents 1. there is evidence that shale gas emits more greenhouse gases than does conventional natural gas. some in pore spaces. Shale gas has been produced for years from shales with natural fractures.4 million scientists noted that shale gas might . the Council of Scientific Society Presidents[8] urged great caution against a national policy of developing shale gas without a better scientific basis for the policy. Because shales ordinarily have insufficient permeability to allow significant fluid flow to a well bore. However.[citation needed] Horizontal drilling is often used with shale gas wells. where high heat and pressure have converted petroleum to natural gas.[citation needed] [edit]Environment See also: Environmental and health effects of hydraulic fracturing As noted above.[citation needed] Shales that host economic quantities of gas have a number of common properties.[7] and are usually mature petroleum source rocks in the thermogenic gas window. They are sufficiently brittle and rigid enough to maintain open fractures.Illustration of shale gas compared to other types of gas deposits. tight sandstones. the shale gas boom in recent years has been due to modern technology in hydraulic fracturing(fracking) to create extensive artificial fractures around well bores.5% to 25%). In a May 2010 letter to US President Obama. The gas in the fractures is produced immediately. in part because of their belief that it releases fewer greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions than other fossil fuels. but the potential profits per successful well are usually also lower. US President Obama's administration has sometimes promoted shale gas. Shale gas is one of a number of unconventional sources of natural gas. most shales are not commercial sources of natural gas.[citation needed] Some of the gas produced is held in natural fractures. In some areas. so gas production in commercial quantities requires fractures to provide permeability. to create maximum borehole surface area in contact with the shale. as high gamma radiation is often correlated with high organic carbon content.[citation needed] Shale has low matrix permeability. Shale gas areas are often known asresource plays[6] (as opposed to exploration plays). and may emit as much or more than oil or coal. The geological risk of not finding gas is low in resource plays.000 feet (3. They are rich in organic material (0.

is critical of the industry's assertions of its safety and its exemption from the Safe Drinking Water Act in the Energy Policy Act of 2005.[15] A 2011 study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology concluded that "The environmental impacts of shale development are challenging but manageable." The study addressed groundwater contamination. EPA concluded that shale gas emits much larger amounts of methane. S. the EPA issued a draft finding which stated that groundwater contamination in Pavillion.S. In this new report. Doug Hock. Environmental Protection Agency[9] issued a new report. a potent greenhouse gas. Wyoming may be the result of fracking in the area. though the industry deems this "highly unlikely". Only about 50% to 70% of the resulting volume of contaminated water is recovered and stored in above-ground ponds to await removal by tanker. [12] The 2010 U.[10] A recent 2011 study in Climatic Change Letters provides the first comprehensive analysis of the greenhouse gas footprint of shale gas. The remaining "produced water" is left in the earth where it can lead to contamination of groundwater aquifers. rather than help mitigate it. the U. On the 100-year integrated time frame. However the wastewater from such operations often lead to foul-smelling odors and heavy metals contaminating the local water supply above-ground. which focuses on the impact of hydraulic fracturing. Recent evidence indicates that methane has a global warming potential that is 105-fold greater than carbon dioxide when viewed over a 20-year period and 33-fold greater when viewed over a 100-year period. Pennsylvania. 2011. [14] On December 8. a spokesman for the company which owns the Pavillion gas field. The EPA stated that the finding was specific to the Pavillion area. documentary film Gasland by Josh Fox. Colorado and Louisiana. this analysis finds shale gas comparable to coal and worse than fuel oil. However the study does not discuss how pervasive such contamination might be in other areas where drilling for shale gas has taken place. Howarth and colleagues find that once methane leak and venting impacts are included.[11] In that peer-reviewed paper.actually aggravate global warming. noting .S. Methane is a very powerful greenhouse gas.[13] The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced June 23. said that it is unclear whether the contamination came from the fracking process. Chemicals are added to the water to facilitate the underground fracturing process that releases natural gas. the life-cycle greenhouse gas footprint of shale gas is far worse than those of coal and fuel oil when viewed for the integrated 20-year period after emission. Cornell University professor Robert W. although it stays in the atmosphere for only one tenth as long a period as carbon dioxide. the first update on emission factors for greenhouse gas emissions by the oil and gas industry by the EPA since 1996. North Dakota. compared mass-to-mass. than does conventional gas. 2011 that it will examine claims of water pollution related to hydraulic fracturing in Texas. where the fracking techniques differ from those used in other parts of the U. In late 2010. A study published in May 2011 concluded that fracking has seriously contaminated shallow groundwater supplies in northeast Pennsylvania with flammable methane.

because of the expense of the massive hydraulic fracturing treatments required to produce shale gas.[citation needed] Research has calculated the 2011 worth of the global shale-gas market as $26.[18] Shale gas tends to cost more to produce than gas from conventional wells. and encourages the use of industry best practices to prevent such events from recurring.[citation needed] North America has been the leader in developing and producing shale gas. Higher natural-gas prices in recent years[when?] and advances in hydraulic fracturing and horizontal completions have made shale-gas wells more profitable."There has been concern that these fractures can also penetrate shallow freshwater zones and contaminate them with fracturing fluid. [16] [edit]Economics Although shale gas has been produced for more than 100 years in the Appalachian Basin and the Illinois Basin of the United States. However. the wells were often marginally economical. but there is no evidence that this is occurring".[19] However. and of horizontal drilling. This study blames known instances of methane contamination on a small number of sub-standard operations.[17] As of June 2011. due to companies intentionally overstating the productivity of their wells and the size of their reserves.66bn. The great economic success of the Barnett Shale play in Texas in particular has spurred the search for other sources of shale gas across the United States and Canada.[20] [edit]See also   Shale gas by country Hydraulic fracturing [edit]References . the validity of the claims of economic viability of these wells has begun to be publicly questioned. a June. this is often offset by the low risk of shale-gas wells.[citation needed] As of 2011 all successful shale-gas wells have exploited Paleozoic and Mesozoic rocks. 2011 New York Times investigation of industrial emails and internal documents found that the financial benefits of unconventional shale gas extraction may be less than previously thought.

Shale is a fine-grained.[1] Mudstones. clastic sedimentary rock composed of mud that is a mix of flakes ofclay minerals and tiny fragments (silt-sized particles) of other minerals. Contents [hide] • • • • • 1 Texture 2 Composition and color 3 Formation 4 See also 5 References . calledfissility. The ratio of clay to other minerals is variable. on the other hand.[1] Shale is characterized by breaks along thin laminae or parallel layering or bedding less than one centimeter in thickness. especially quartz andcalcite. are similar in composition but do not show the fissility.

Addition of variable amounts of minor constituents alters the color of the rock. montmorillonite and illite.06 mm are described as mudstones (1/3 to 2/3 silt particles) or claystone (less than 1/3 silt). in dia.reds).[3] Red.[1] Shale is the most common sedimentary rock. brown and green colors are indicative of ferric oxide (hematite . iron hydroxide (goethite .[1] Clays are the major constituent of shales and other mudrocks. Black shale results from the presence of greater than one percent carbonaceous material and indicates a reducing environment. Rocks with similar particle sizes but with less clay (greater than 2/3 silt) and therefore grittier are siltstones. [edit]Composition and color Shales are typically composed of variable amounts of clay minerals and quartz grains and the typical color is gray. The clay minerals represented are largely kaolinite.[edit]Texture Shale typically exhibits varying degrees of fissility breaking into thin layers. magnesium. Sand grain = 2 mm. or micaceous minerals (chlorite. Clay minerals of Late Tertiary mudstones are expandable smectites whereas in older rocks especially in mid to early Paleozoic shales illites predominate. biotite and illite . The transformation of smectite to illite produces silica.[2] Sample of drill cuttings of shale while drilling an oil well in Louisiana.browns and limonite yellow).[1] Non-fissile rocks of similar composition but made of particles smaller than 0.[1] Black shale can also be referred to as black metal. iron and water. sodium. often splintery and usually parallel to the otherwise indistinguishable bedding plane because of parallel orientation of clay mineral flakes. These released elements . calcium.greens).

The fine particles that compose shale can remain suspended in water long after the larger and denser particles of sand have deposited. in relatively deep. reducing environments. having been alternatively attributed to input from hydrothermal fluids during or after sedimentation or to slow accumulation from sea water over long periods of sedimentation. Pyrite and amorphous iron sulfide along with carbon produce the black and purple coloration . and zinc. Tennessee The process in the rock cycle which forms shale is compaction. calcite. Common in somePaleozoic and Mesozoic strata. This process could have taken millions of years to complete. Shales are typically deposited in very slow moving water and are often found in lakes and lagoonal deposits. hematite and albite.[1] [edit]Formation Limey shale overlaid by limestone. chert. black shales were deposited in anoxic. vanadium.Cumberland Plateau. on floodplains and offshore from beach sands. as a result of being especially rich in unoxidized carbon.dolomite. 'Black shales' are dark. all trace to minor (except quartz) minerals found in shales and other mudrocks.form authigenic quartz. quiet water. However. in river deltas.[4][5][6] The enriched values are of controversial origin. Some black shales contain abundant heavy metals such as molybdenum.[5][7][8] . such as in stagnant water columns. this amounts to less than one percent by mass in an average shale. They can also be deposited on the continental shelf.[1] Shales and mudrocks contain roughly 95 percent of the organic matter in all sedimentary rocks. uranium. ankerite. Black shales which form in anoxic conditions contain reduced free carbon along with ferrous iron (Fe2+) and sulfur (S2-).

Experience and information gained from developing the Barnett Shale have improved the efficiency of shale gas development around the country. a vertical well is drilled to the targeted rock formation. Weathering shale at a road cut in southeastern Kentucky Horizontal Drilling and Hydraulic Fracturing Over the past decade. exposing the well to more of the producing shale. or various carbonate minerals. the drill bit is turned to bore a well that stretches through the reservoir horizontally. apatite. With continued increase in metamorphic grade the sequence isphyllite.Horizontal drilling is used to provide greater access to the gas trapped deep in the producing formation. .metamorphic rock known as slate. A decade of production has come from theBarnett Shale play in Texas. Shales may also contain concretions consisting of pyrite. fissile. then schist and finally to gneiss. the combination of horizontal drilling andhydraulic fracturing has allowed access to large volumes of shale gas that were previously uneconomical to produce." which are shale formations containing significant accumulations of natural gas and which share similar geologic and geographic properties. Shales that are subject to heat and pressure of metamorphism alter into a hard. The production of natural gas from shale formations has rejuvenated the natural gas industry in the United States. First. animal tracks/burrows and even raindrop impact craters are sometimes preserved on shale bedding surfaces. Horizontal Drilling Two major drilling techniques are used to produce shale gas.Splitting shale with a large knife to reveal fossils Fossils. At the desired depth. What is a Shale "Play"? Shale gas is found in shale "plays.

total natural gas supply in 2035. Without horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing. where it is trapped by an overlying layer of impermeable rock. chemicals. shale gas resources form within the organic-rich shale source rock. and constitute 45% of U.S. hydraulic fracturing enables gas producers to extract shale gas at reasonable cost. and sand are pumped into the well to unlock the hydrocarbons trapped in shale formations by opening cracks (fractures) in the rock and allowing natural gas to flow from the shale into the well. When used in conjunction with horizontal drilling. Did You Know? Shale gas in 2009 made up 14% of total U. Shale Gas Forcast . In contrast. natural gas does not flow to the well rapidly. as projected in the EIA Annual Energy Outlook 2011. Conventional Gas Conventional gas reservoirs are created when natural gas migrates toward the Earth's surface from an organic-rich source formation into highly permeable reservoir rock. Without these techniques.S. Production of shale gas is expected to continue to increase. natural gas supply. shale gas production would not be economically feasible because the natural gas would not flow from the formation at high enough rates to justify the cost of drilling. Shale Gas vs. The low permeability of the shale greatly inhibits the gas from migrating to more permeable reservoir rocks. and commercial quantities cannot be produced from shale.Hydraulic Fracturing Hydraulic fracturing (commonly called "fracking" or "hydrofracking") is a technique in which water.

. Image by EIA.Chart showing the shale gas forcast from the EIA. Annual Energy Outlook 2011.

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