All Things Energy - Volume 5 (Natural Gas)

Video Transcript

The shale gas revolution has been the primary source of increased natural gas production since 2000. This revolution is the result of technological breakthroughs more than three decades in the making.

The New Revolution in Shale Gas Production.

Hi, I’m Tamra Freedman with Breitling Energy, and welcome to another segment of “All Things Energy”.

Government scientists and agencies helped develop massive hydraulic fracking, horizontal wells, and advanced earth imaging. They worked with private entrepreneurs and sometimes funded development on these key technologies.

Presidents Ford and Carter both prioritized gas exploration in the face of the 1970s energy crises. There was a general awareness that large shale fields like the Devonian field in New England and the Texas Barnett Shale had ample reserves of natural gas. But nobody had the needed imaging tools or economical ways to extract it.

In 1976, the Morgantown Energy Research Center, or MERC, launched a major effort called the Eastern Gas Shales Project. This Project mapped and tested core samples from unconventional gas deposits. MERC contracted with dozens of universities and private companies to demonstrate gas recovery from shale formations and other unconventional gas reserves. Los Alamos, Lawrence Livermore, Sandia, and other national labs modeled, monitored, and evaluated the MERC-contracted demonstration projects.

In 1976, two MERC engineers patented an early directional drilling technique that would unlock substantial future natural gas recovery. Though at the time no one knew it, this would be the beginning tool of the biggest energy revolution on the planet. Since then, domestic natural gas production in the United States has expanded dramatically due to massive hydraulic fracking and horizontal drilling. Both these techniques make retrieving natural gas from shale formations more cost effective.

Shale gas has been produced for more than 100 years in the Appalachian Basin, in our eastern states, and the Illinois shale in central states’ basins. These operations were only marginally profitable, due to their higher costs. In recent years however, higher natural gas prices and advances in shale gas production methods have improved profitability. Since the early 21st century, shale gas basins in Wyoming, Texas, North Dakota, Oklahoma and even California witnessed a boom in production.