Home > energy > Shale gas – article yanked and editor fired

Shale gas – article yanked and editor fired

from          Lewis L. Smith

Natural gas can be extracted from a kind of low-porosity rock known as shale. Indeed shale gas is already making a substantial contribution to the US gas supply. Moreover, some very optimistic estimates have been made about the quantity which could be produced in the future, without giving any thought to the  availability of the water required to fracture this rock and release commercial quantities of gas from newly discovered reservoirs.

Indeed some people are even looking to shale gas to “save” the USA from the impact of the coming peak in world crude-oil production. In the meantime, stock in shale-gas producers is being touted to investors as “the greatest thing since sliced bread”.

However, there is “a fly in this ointment”, in particular a detailed, recent study of shale gas by Arthur Berman, then a correspondent for World Oil. This study covered some 12,000 producing wells in the Barnett formation, the largest shale-gas formation in the USA and also the one with the longest production history. As we recall, Berman estimated that lifetime production from currently active wells would only be about one-third of what the drillers had estimated at the time these wells started producing.

We can now report that the natural-gas industry has reacted negatively to this article, bombarding Berman with both personal insults and technical criticisms. Last week the “war of words” escalated, to where things got personal. His latest article on shale was “yanked” from the November issue of World Oil prior to publication. He and editor Perry Fischer then put out a statement blaming pressure from one or two natural-gas companies. A few days later, Fischer was fired. Two down and how many more to go ?

We of course are not privy to what happened “behind the curtain” nor are we qualified to evaluate Berman’s analysis. However, considering the way shale gas is being hyped to potential investors, it is reasonable to conclude that Berman is on to something and that the publication of his concerns about future output are making some people nervous, people with a monetary interest in perpetuating an optimistic picture of shale-gases potential.

This of course is not the first time in the “peak gas” and “peak oil” debates that an attempt has been made to suppress a voice of caution. One recalls immediately the unexpected retirements of certain pessimists who “came out of the closet” in recent years and the current Swedish criticisms of excessive optimism on the part of the  International Energy Agency with respect to peak oil.

But the Berman case is the crudest and most blatant attempt to date. Moreover, the repetition of acts of repression suggests that optimists with regard to future production of hydrocarbons are less and less confident of their facts and reasoning and more and more feel the need to resort to “strong arm” tactics, in an effort to make their point of view prevail.

Investors and strategic planners beware !

Thanks to ASPO/USA’s “Peak Oil Review” of Nov 09 for bringing this matter to our attention. ###

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