Saturday, November 19, 2016

GWPF Newsletter: U.S. Geological Survey Discovers "Largest Oil & Gas Deposit Ever Discovered In America"

The Never-Ending Shale Revolution That Keep On Giving

In this newsletter:

1) U.S. Geological Survey Discovers "Largest Oil & Gas Deposit Ever Discovered In America"
NPR, 16 November 2016

2) The Never-Ending Shale Revolution That Keeps On Giving
Forbes, 15 November 2016

3) U.S. Shale Firms Go Back to Work After Trump's Victory
Reuters, 14 November 2016

4) IEA Predicts Second Gas Revolution: World Swimming In Cheap Energy
Highbury Clock, 17 November 2016

5) Leaked EU Energy Package Subsidises Coal, Less Access For Renewables
Euractiv, 16 November 2016

6) New Climate Champion China Boosts Coal Output
Financial Times, 17 November 2016

7) Mark Wallace: How Trump Will Help Theresa May To Bury “Vote Blue, Go Green”
Conservative Home, 16 November 2016

Full details:

1) U.S. Geological Survey Discovers "Largest Oil & Gas Deposit Ever Discovered In America"
NPR, 16 November 2016
Rebecca Hersher

The U.S. Geological Survey says it has found the largest continuous oil and gas deposit ever discovered in the United States.

Midland Basin Map

On Tuesday, the USGS announced that a swath of West Texas known as the Wolfcamp shale contains 20 billion barrels of oil and 16 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.

That is nearly three times more petroleum than the agency found in North Dakota's Bakken shale in 2013.

As NPR's Jeff Brady reported, the amount of oil in the Wolfcamp shale formation is nearly three times the amount of petroleum products used by the entire country in a year.

The USGS says all 20 billion barrels of oil are "technically recoverable," meaning the oil could be brought to the surface "using currently available technology and industry practices."

"The Texas discovery is in a place that has been drilled before by conventional methods," Jeff reported for NPR's Newscast Unit. "But now that oil companies use horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing — or fracking — they can access reserves that previously were out of reach."

"Changes in technology and industry practices can have significant effects on what resources are technically recoverable, and that's why we continue to perform resource assessments throughout the United States and the world," said Walter Guidroz, a program coordinator for the USGS Energy Resources Program, in the USGS statement.

"Even in areas that have produced billions of barrels of oil, there is still the potential to find billions more," he said.

The complete oil and gas assessment is publicly available here. A map shows the six separately assessed regions, designated according to depth by the petroleum industry, that make up the Wolfcamp shale.

Full story

2) The Never-Ending Shale Revolution That Keeps On Giving
Forbes, 15 November 2016
David Blackmon

Even in the midst of the worst downturn in oil prices in more than 30 years, the hits just keep on rolling in for the Permian Basin.

Image result for Wolfcamp Shale discovery

On Tuesday, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) announced a new estimate of oil in place for the Wolfcamp Shale, which lies in the Midland Basin portion of the larger Permian Basin region. After all the other amazing news that has come out of the Permian over the last half year, it should surprise no one that the USGS estimate of more than 20 billion barrels of continuous oil in place is by far the largest such estimate the agency has recorded related to any formation in the United States, almost “three times larger than that of the 2013 USGS Bakken-Three Forks resource assessment.”

For those who might be wondering, the estimate for the Wolfcamp Shale is almost 19 times larger than the USGS estimate of continuous oil in place for the Eagle Ford Shale, released in 2012. But it’s important to note that such estimates of reserves in place will tend to grow over time as more and more wells are drilled into a given formation, thus revealing better geologic knowledge of the formation, and that Eagle Ford study was largely conducted during 2011, when the drilling boom in that region was really just ramping up.

The term “continuous oil in place” is used when referring to unconventional formations like shale, in which the oil exists throughout the entire formation, rather than collecting in discrete pools, as happens in conventional sand and limestone formations.  The USGS bases its estimates on how much oil is considered to be “undiscovered but technically recoverable.” In plain English, this would be amount of oil believed to exist based on current geological knowledge of the formation, and which could be recovered using current technology.

To put the magnitude of this estimate for the Wolfcamp Shale into further context, the Prudhoe Bay formation on the North Slope of Alaska, to date the largest producing oil field ever discovered in North America, has produced just over 12 billion barrels oil over the past 43 years. The largest producing oil field ever discovered in the Lower 48 states of the U.S., the East Texas Field, has to date produced just over 7 billion barrels since the early 1930s.

Full story

3) U.S. Shale Firms Go Back to Work After Donald Trump's Victory
Reuters, 14 November 2016

U.S. shale producers are redeploying cash, rigs and workers, cautiously confident the energy sector has turned a corner after Donald Trump’s election victory and OPEC‘s recent signal that it plans to curb production.

The downturn produced a leaner, more efficient U.S. shale industry that was forced to develop and quickly adapt new technology to compete with conventional oil supplies during a two-year period of depressed prices.

“You’re starting to see a little bit of light at the end of the tunnel,” Ryan Lance, chief executive of ConocoPhillips , the largest independent U.S. oil producer, said in an interview last week. “We’re beginning to put capital back to work, but we’re being cautious.”

Specifics of the deal by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries—especially what it means for each member—need to be finalized at a meeting later this month in Austria. But the tentative agreement indicated OPECkingpin Saudi Arabia is keen to end a damaging two-year oil price war. That prodded U.S. producers to action.

The U.S. oil drilling rig count has grown 6% since OPEC‘s September accord, according to oilfield analytics firm NavPort, with additions across the country’s top shale fields including the Permian (7%) and the Bakken (17%).

Also, Trump’s victory is expected to bring to the White House an advocate for oil and gas drilling, who will slash regulations and encourage new energy industry development.

Occidental Petroleum, Chevron, Pioneer Natural Resources, and ConocoPhillips are among those adding rigs or preparing to do so.

Oasis Petroleum, a major North Dakota producer, bought 55,000 acres last month from SM Energy for $785 million, a bullish bet on the future of oil prices. The company also plans to add rigs.

“This all reflects more of a confidence around our business plan in a lower oil price environment,” Oasis chief executive Tommy Nusz said in an interview last week.
“We feel like we can hold our own now in a $40 (per barrel oil) world and grow in a $45 to $50 world.”

Citing its technology and other improvements, EOG Resources raised its growth projections and now expects to boost output 15 to 25% each year through the end of the decade if oil prices stabilize near $50 per barrel.

Full story

4) IEA Predicts Second Gas Revolution: World Swimming In Cheap Energy
Highbury Clock, 17 November 2016
Arthur Fields

Surplus LNG volumes, supplemented by new production in the US, Australia, Canada and East Africa, "will create the catalyst for a second natural-gas revolution, with far-reaching implications for gas pricing and contracts" - so says the International Energy Agency (IEA) in its latest World Energy Outlook, unveiled at a Westminster, central London press conference this morning.

Mr. Birol's remarks were made as the IEA publishes its annual report, forecasting global energy supply and demand to 2040.

Oil giants have slashed investment since prices crashed in summer 2014 amid a global supply glut.

The IEA report also suggests global oil demand is unlikely to peak in the next 25 years, even as governments implement increasingly rigid climate policies in a bid to curb harmful emissions.

Commenting on oil prices, the IEA's executive director, Fatih Birol, said upon launching the report that crude prices were facing a period of higher volatility.

Total demand from OECD countries falls by nearly 12 MMb/d to 2040, but this reduction is more than offset by increases elsewhere.

Rapid industrial growth and urbanization in India, China and south-east Asia will mean that they will continue to remain energy guzzlers, more than offsetting the decline in energy consumption in fossil fuels in developed countries till mid-2030s, according to the International Energy Agency.

Full story

5) Leaked EU Energy Package Subsidises Coal, Less Access For Renewables
Euractiv, 16 November 2016
Aline Robert

The EU claims to be promoting an ambitious agenda at the Marrakesh climate conference, but its latest piece of energy legislation could subsidise new coal capacity and undermine market access for renewables.

On 30 November, the European Commission will unveil its Winter Package, a series of legislative proposals supposedly aimed at providing “clean energy for all”, of which has obtained a copy.

These eight texts, which include revisions to directives and new regulations, are designed to put consumers at the heart of the energy market, allowing them to become electricity producers themselves. But other deep reforms to the energy market are also being considered.

Disguised subsidies for coal?

One contentious issue is the introduction of capacity mechanisms across the EU. These systems, which are already in use in several European countries such as the United Kingdom and France, allow electricity producers to earn money from their idle generation capacity.

But for environmental NGOs, capacity mechanisms are little more than veiled subsidies for fossil fuels. Indeed, the absence of a CO2 emissions cap for new electrical capacity in article 23 of the new electricity market regulation means it has potential to be used to subsidise new coal-fired power stations.

“I do not understand why we are opening the door to capacity mechanisms, because we are already at overcapacity in Europe. The German solution of making “strategic reserves” is better: with market interconnection there is no need to keep unused capacity running throughout Europe,” said Claude Turmes, a Luxrmbourgish Green MEP.

The Polish government is preparing its own capacity mechanism, which should be very similar to that currently in use in the United Kingdom. Copying and pasting the British system will allow Warsaw to bypass the bottleneck of European regulations on state aid, as the UK model has already been validated by Brussels. But unlike the UK, Poland is likely to use the system to strengthen the position of coal in its energy mix.

Full post

6) New Climate Champion China Boosts Coal Output
Financial Times, 17 November 2016

China’s top planning body has relaxed working day restrictions on its coal mines after reduced output boosted prices, frustrating central planners’ desire to control both price and supply of the nation’s most important energy source.

China’s National Development and Reform Commission said on Thursday that all mines could produce for 330 days each year, after last week extending a production band of 276-330 days through the end of March. Mines had been regulated on how many days they could operate, within the band.

The relaxation came after output statistics for October showed Chinese coal production had dropped 11 per cent in the first 10 months of 2016 versus the same period the year before. On a daily basis, output in October was down 1.5 per cent from September.

Full story

7) Mark Wallace: How Trump Will Help Theresa May To Bury “Vote Blue, Go Green”
Conservative Home, 16 November 2016

Somewhere out there, the huskies that David Cameron hugged might still be alive. The famous photoshoot took place over ten years ago, and huskies live to the age of about 12, so if they have lasted this long they they’ll be living out their last years next to a warm fireplace somewhere – at best they’ll be a bit decrepit by now.

Still, that’s more than can be said for the policy agenda Cameron launched with their help. The “vote blue, go green” pitch seems an awfully long time ago now. Then, before the financial crisis, he was pitching the Conservatives as zealous converts to the philosophy of green taxes and subsidies.

Image result for vote blue get green

Economic reality mugged that political fantasy, however. The crash left voters with less money in their pockets, and the green agenda began to look like an unaffordable luxury. Cameron’s greenery struggled on for a time – the Conservatives supported the Climate Change Act in 2008, even calling for a quango to dictate annual carbon targets, with only five MPs voting against it.

In 2010, emboldened by the need to win Lib Dem support, he promised the Coalition would be “the greenest Government ever” but the strictures of austerity and growing concern about the impact of green taxes on the cost of living hobbled his actions. By 2011, ConservativeHome was able to report that Osborne was aware that the costs were prohibitive, and was “putting Cameron’s huskies on a tight leash” as a result.

Ed Miliband’s campaign on the cost of living – and particularly on energy bills – accelerated that declining popularity of the policy agenda in Downing Street, as did growing pressure from Fleet Street. In November 2013 Cameron was reported to have instructed ministers to “get rid of all the green crap”. The new slogan, an unnamed Tory source told The Sun, should be “Vote Blue, Get Real”. If The Sun was on sale in Norway’s arctic circle, the huskies presumably glowered.

But if Cameron’s political priorities had changed, his personal policy tastes hadn’t – he was still the same man, just adapting to a different landscape than he had imagined back in 2006. His departure from Downing Street, and the arrival of Theresa May, heralds a rather deeper change.

The Department of Energy and Climate Change, Whitehall’s bastion of greenery, has been closed down and its functions folded into a department whose priorities are business, energy and industrial strategy. At the launch of her leadership campaign, she warned that “fixed items of spending, like energy bills, have rocketed” and called for “an energy policy that emphasises the reliability of supply and lower costs for users” – concerns that inevitably place her at odds with an energy policy that places environmentalism first and consumers second.

May recognises the fact that what seem like small changes in Whitehall spreadsheets have major financial impacts on households which are already struggling to pay the bills, and such households are her priority.

If she is less well-disposed to the green agenda than her predecessor, international circumstances look likely to accentuate that difference.

Donald Trump is on record as saying climate change is a “hoax”, and wants to delete the US’s signature from the Paris agreement. In that context, May being less enthusiastic than Cameron looks relatively mild by comparison. Looking ahead, a rejectionist America also means that the pressure for the UK Government to act in accord with new and radical international agreements will be reduced for the good reason that a Trump White House won’t be signing up to such agreements.

That gives the Prime Minister – and, by extension, the Chancellor - greater leeway to act on green taxes and policies to give consumers a break. It would certainly be in keeping with May’s focus on what our columnist James Frayne calls the just-about-managing classes, who are understandably fed-up with being told that they ought to pay extra to light and heat their homes in order to assuage politicians’ green guilt. Given the Opposition’s predictably dogmatic enthusiasm for punitive taxation, it also offers another opportunity to draw a stark contrast with Labour.

The Government has already given the green light to shale gas extraction, improving the prospect for affordable and secure supplies of domestic energy, which pleased business. Now they could take an axe to that “green crap” and demonstrate an immediate impact on voters’ pockets. That photoshoot with those huskies feels like a very long time ago indeed. 

The London-based Global Warming Policy Forum is a world leading think tank on global warming policy issues. The GWPF newsletter is prepared by Director Dr Benny Peiser - for more information, please visit the website at

No comments: