Today, Nature responded to letters earlier this week from the EIA (Energy Information Administration) and BEG (Bureau of Economic Geology, University of Texas at Austin) claiming that Mason Inman’s article “The Fracking Fallacy” published on December 4, 2014 was flawed.
Nature stands by Inman’s article and, interestingly, revealed that EIA was asked some questions by Inman while he was working on the article but they did not reply.
It is also interesting that the EIA denial letter was not signed by the EIA Administrator Adam Sieminski but by Deputy Administrator Howard Gruenspecht.
Let’s get a few things straight as people attempt to sort through this bit of energy theater.
First, Allen Brooks has documented the events and facts of this story in two issues of Musings From The Oil Patch:
Allen showed many of BEG Director Scott Tinker’s slides that set off the debate in the first of these articles but the key chart in my view is the following:
(Click The Figure To Enlarge)
Despite denial of any differences by both the EIA and BEG, the obvious truth is that the BEG Sloan studies of the major shale gas plays in the United States forecast lower EUR (estimated ultimate recovery), a shorter life-cycle, an earlier and steeper decline and a lower contribution to total gas supply than does the EIA.
Denying that there is any discrepancy between EIA and BEG is false. This difference does not disappear by accusing Inman and Nature of misrepresentation and bias. Attempts by both agencies to discredit Tad Patzek or minimize his role in the BEG studies–more about that a bit later in my comments–are factually incorrect and shameful.
The BEG studies confirm what many “shale gas skeptics” (including me) have said for many years: The shale gas phenomenon is real, it has contributed a significant volume of gas that nobody thought was available, and there is a lot less of it than some people believe. I add that it also costs more than represented to produce although that is not part of the immediate debate among EIA, BEG and Nature.
The EIA published 2013 proven reserves of shale gas earlier this month. Shale gas will provide about 6 years of supply at present consumption. We can debate about the various classes of reserves and speculate about resources from now until we run out of gas but the plain and simple truth is what Inman and the BEG studies concluded: there is less gas than many people thought and certainly less than EIA has represented in its natural gas forecasts (do the EIA people who do the gas forecasts talk to the people who do the reserve accounting?).
(Click The Figure To Enlarge)
Much of the EIA’s position stated in Gruenspecht’s letter (and interpreted by me) is that uncertainty exists and the EIA represents multiple scenarios and should not be held to account for one or, in fact, any of them. That sounds good but, as someone pointed out to me, applications for LNG export to the Department of Energy are based on the EIA base case.
Tad Patzek was quoted often in the Nature article and was shamelessly “thrown under the bus” by the EIA and BEG in both denial letters.
Tad is Professor and Chairman of the Petroleum Eng. & Geosystems Department at the University of Texas at Austin and a lead researcher in the BEG Sloan studies on U.S. shale gas plays.
Despite comments in both letters saying that Tad’s role was relatively minor in those studies, I dispute those statements as distortions of fact. The work done by Tad and his engineering team addressed the determination of individual well EUR which, in my view, is the core of the studies.
I believe that the BEG Sloan studies represent a monumental achievement and demonstrate an unparalleled level of comprehensive and integrated analysis on the important subject of shale gas. I fully support the technical analysis and Tad Patzek and his team provided the credible core of that work.
Please see the papers following for proof of this.
1. Patzek, T.W. Male, F., and Marder, M.,“A simple model of gas production from hydrofractured horizontal wells in shales,” AAPG Bulletin, v. 98, no. 12 (December 2014), pp. 2507–2529.
4. John Browning, Katie Smye, Scott W. Tinker, Susan Horvath, Svetlana Ikonnikova, Tad Patzek Gürcan Gülen, , Frank Male, Eric Potter, Forrest Roberts , and Qilong Fu, “Study develops Fayetteville shale reserves, production forecast, OGJ, 01/06/2014.
5. John Browning, Scott W. Tinker, Svetlana Ikonnikova, Gürcan Gülen, Eric Potter, Qilong Fu, Susan Horvath, Tad Patzek, Frank Male, William Fisher, Forrest Roberts and Ken Medlock, III, “BARNETT SHALE MODEL-2 (Conclusion): Barnett study determines full-field reserves, production forecast,” OGJ, September 9, 2013.
6. John Browning, Scott W. Tinker, Svetlana Ikonnikova, Gürcan Gülen, Eric Potter, Qilong Fu, Susan Horvath, Tad Patzek, Frank Male, William Fisher, Forrest Roberts and Ken Medlock, III, “BARNETT SHALE MODEL-1: Barnett study determines full-field reserves, production forecast,” OGJ, p. 62, August 5, 2013.
8. Frank Male, Akand W. Islam, Tad W. Patzek, Svetlana Ikonnikova, John Browning and Michael P. Marder, “Analysis of gas production from hydraulically fractured wells in the Haynesville shale using scaling methods,” submitted to the Journal of Unconventional Oil and Gas Resources, 2014 (now in revision to be send back to the editor).