The Second Shale Gas Boom

Friday, October 24th, 2014
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A second boom in shale gas which will see a massive increase in production across several regions of the world will take place over the next four to six years, a leading consulting firm says.

In a recent report, Boston Consulting Group described shale gas as the most significant revolution seen within the energy landscape over the past two decades. It adds that a second shale gas revolution has commenced, with countries such as Argentina, Poland, Ukraine, China, Australia and South Africa set to beef up production and even some traditional oil and gas exporting countries starting to dabble in the market.

Pointing to its own estimates that the United States and Canada currently account for 99.9 per cent of worldwide production and US Energy Information Administration estimates that the volume of recoverable resources outside of North America outstrips that within the US and Canada by more than six to one, Boston researchers Iván Martén and Eric Oudenot said the likely impact of increasing production outside the US and Canada could not be understated.

“We believe that a second shale-gas revolution will occur in the next four to six years that will have a significant impact upon global prices of gas and liquid natural gas, on gas trade flows, and – in some regions – on the price of oil,” Martén and Oudenot wrote.

“It is therefore critical that industry players assess the potential impact of shale gas development on their existing operations and determine how best to seize the opportunity that it presents.”

In their report, Martén and Oudenot argue the ‘ripple effect’ of shale gas development across international markets will extend to a number of related sectors.

The offshore drilling market, for example, will benefit as exploration of shale gas fields require 15 times more wells to produce the same amount of hydrocarbons over a similar period to a 20-year life standard large deep-water oil field.

Benefits will also flow to the pressure pumping market, the proppant market (sand or ceramic materials required to ‘prop’ the hydraulic fractures open) and the market for specific types of pipes and tubes which are able to withstand the stress induced by long horizontal wells and hydraulic fracturing.

To be sure, challenges exist. Argentina, for instance, has shale layers that have proven to be productive and respond well to hydraulic fracking but has extreme difficulties accessing foreign capital for investment, while producers are being frightened off with regard to Ukraine by the unstable political environment there.

In Poland, meanwhile, wells which have been tested have not met expectations.

Still, Martén and Oudenot maintain that onward momentum will continue.

“Shale gas is a complex resource to develop, and operators have far less experience with it than they do with conventional oil and gas…” the researchers wrote. “…but vast shale-gas resources are known to exist outside of North America, and development over the next four to six years promises to have a dramatic impact on the global gas and related industries.”

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