Fossil Fuels Post Carbon Institute fracking report

Published on October 27th, 2014 | by Tina Casey


Fracking’s Slow-Motion Train Wreck Revealed In New Report

October 27th, 2014 by  

If you are one of those people who smell the stench of bust behind today’s fracking-fueled oil and gas boom, the Post Carbon Institute has an early Christmas present for you. In its latest report, the organization makes the case that US shale oil and gas reserves will peak and drop off rapidly, long before officially predicted by the US Energy Information Agency.

The new Post Carbon Institute report is titled “Drilling Deeper: A Reality Check on U.S. Government Forecasts for a Lasting Tight Oil & Shale Gas Boom.” It was prepared by the same consultant who correctly predicted that official estimates of oil reserves in California’s Monterey Shale 1 formation would fall off the cliff.

Post Carbon Institute fracking report

Fracking operations (cropped and altered) courtesy of Simon Fraser University.

Fracking’s Great Moment of Derp: Monterey Shale

Post Carbon’s Monterey shale oil report came out in December 2013. Titled Drilling California: A Reality Check on the Monterey Shale, it picked apart an optimistic projection made by the US Energy Information Agency in 2011 to the tune of 13.7 billion barrels.

Post Carbon argued that EIA put too much weight on experience with the Bakken and Eagle Ford shale operations, and did not factor in variations in the Monterey formation.

By May 2014 the chickens had come home to roost, when a new EIA estimate dropped the estimate down by 96 percent, to about 600 million barrels.

The New Post Carbon Fracking Report

With that in mind, let’s take a look at “Drilling Deeper,” which was just released earlier this morning.


The report examines EIA’s forecasts for 12 shale plays that  together cover 82% of tight oil (tight oil refers to oil recovered from shale formations, not to be confused with oil shale) and 88% of shale gas production.

Basically, Post Carbon finds the same “extremely optimistic” outlook at work.

Although the report predicts fairly robust activity in the near term, it predicts that tight oil will be far lower than the EIA predicts over its 2040 timeline, absent the discovery of significant new plays.

Here’s a sample of the findings for oil:

Tight oil production from the two top plays, the Bakken and Eagle Ford, will underperform the EIA’s reference case oil recovery by 28% from 2013 to 2040…By 2040, production rates from the Bakken and Eagle Ford will be less than a tenth of that projected by the EIA.

The outlook for shale gas doesn’t look much rosier. Without the discovery of major new shale formations, here’s the projection from the Post Carbon report:

Shale gas production from the top seven plays will underperform the EIA’s reference case forecast by 39% from 2014 to 2040…By 2040, production rates from these plays will be about one-third that of the EIA forecast.

Fracking Boom, Fracking Bust, and The New Ghost Towns

The new Post Carbon report is focused on the impact that shale play estimates have on US energy policy. Press materials for the report also describe the financial symptoms of a bubble that’s about to pop.

However, we’re more interested in the report’s implications for communities and individual property owners that host fracking or fracking wastewater disposal operations.

Those of you who know your Westerns are familiar with the “ghost town” phenomenon of abandoned mining communities that lost their raison d’être once the mining company pulls out.

In real life, the ghost town effect doesn’t just mean a loss of employment. It can also saddle the community with a toxic environmental legacy that thwarts new economic activity.

You could make the case that mining boom towns wouldn’t have existed in the first place if it wasn’t for the mine, so no foul, no harm. But that doesn’t apply to the current oil and gas fracking boom. In many areas it is intruding into established communities that already have a firm footing in sectors like agriculture or tourism, or that have the potential for long term economic grown.

The Post Carbon report underscores that the fracking boom is just that: a relatively short-lived boom. Given emerging evidence of the negative impacts of fracking and fracking wastewater disposal, communities that already host a healthy economic platform would be well served to pass on the opportunity to make a quick buck, and focus on more long term, sustainable sources of income.

For those of you new to the topic, those impacts are only just beginning to emerge because for many years fracking (short for hydrofracturing, a longstanding but formerly uncommon method for recovering oil and gas from shale formations) was largely confined to thinly populated areas in the western US, where it attracted little attention from the outside world.

However, a Bush-era exemption from federal water protection regulations has enabled thousands of fracking rigs to blossom in new territory, including the heavily populated northeastern and mid-Atlantic states.

As a result, fracking has become an incendiary issue for some communities, as has fracking wastewater disposal. That’s on top of the meta-issue, which is the role of natural gas in climate change.

We’re already beginning to see significant pushback against fracking on the local level, particularly in fracking hotspot Pennsylvania as well as in New York State, where communities are deploying their zoning authority.

Stay tuned.

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About the Author

specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.

  • rockyredneck

    There has been a lot of discussion here about running out of NG and peak oil. Neither concept has much relevance to the real world. We won’t run out of oil or NG, but at some point it will become too expensive to burn for energy. We already had a taste of that in and around 2008.
    OIl and NG should always be considered seperately as the economically recoverable reserves are quite different. I am sure we can replace coal as an energy source at some point even though it is the most abundant fossil fuel.
    The demand picture is constantly changing as well. As improved efficiencies in buildings and transportation near their limits, and third world economies improve, the demand for energy will likely start increasing at a faster rate.
    The total saturation of renewables is difficult to predict but I would guess that 80 or 90 % by 2040 is wildly optimistic on a global basis. I could however be possible to replace the use of fossil fuel for the generation of electrical energy in the U.S. in this time frame.

    • Offgridman

      But the Stanford study I referenced is talking about a total switch to renewables with current technology by 2040 on a worldwide scale using the planned current expenditures for energy.
      The caveats to this in the study are actually the political and social attitudes that will need to change for it to happen. If we tell ourselves we can’t do it, it won’t happen. If we look at the actual numbers and apply the correct technology in the right places, it is possible. A positive attitude makes all the difference in accomplishing any project, and I say this coming from an engineering background running big renovation and remodeling projects.
      With the developing world countries realizing that it is possible to get energy access to their populations while skipping the centralized energy production and grid model. And in the developed countries renewable energy sources coming to grid parity costs with fossil fuel sources. The economics as well as the environmental reasons for using renewable energy are becoming equal, and the economics of renewable energy are only going to keep on improving. This is going to mean low cost energy for everyone on a worldwide basis while resulting in a much cleaner environment for everyone also.

      • rockyredneck

        You are right about a positive attitude being a great driver of ambition, but we are not talking about one project or even a common goal here.
        I am one who would love to see a world run on clean energy and it will likely happen. It is just that it will probably happen in fits and starts with many setbacks and errors along the way.
        The Stanford study indicates what may be possible, but then time travel is also possible, if you ignore a little basic physics as we understand it now.
        They are certainly right that social and political attitudes will need to change. There are other problems such as transfer of investment and destruction of asset values that need to be addressed. Do you think that is possible in the next 15 years? I doubt that you can even reach a significant portion of the worlds population in that time.
        There are myriad other problems in this world that are going to get peoples attention much quicker and demand much quicker action. Most of these problems have existed, in some form, somewhere,throughout history, with no lasting solution ever being found.
        It is likely that few people outside of acedemics will give the matter much thought or energy and it needs the common people to make it happen. The hands on the wrenches or the boots on the ground, if you will. Wide agreement on the need is necessary to give the projects direction, and that doesn’t seem to exist outside of acedemia or these pages.
        I am in full agreement that the conversion needs to happen but realistic scenarios are more likely to get public support. I think we need a step by step approach with the cumulative effect being the eventual goal. Lets mill the logs before attempting to build the house.

        • Bob_Wallace

          We have already seen destruction of asset values. Coal stocks have been hit hard and multiple coal companies have gone out of business. We’re on track to see a few hundred coal plants in the US close before their useful lifetime has expired.

          Oil stocks will be the next to get hit. As EV sales grow oil use will stagnate and oil stocks will start to slump.

          • rockyredneck

            Perhaps, but I doubt EV sales will grow as fast as oil supplies deplete. I think that high oil prices, rather than concern for the environment, will be the greatest driver towards widespread EV adoption.

          • Offgridman

            That in a way is what I have been trying to explain to you. The switch to renewables, whether by EV’s, solar panels, grid changes is all being pushed because the economics make sense. This will make the change happen with the positive environmental affects following right along.

          • rockyredneck

            Now we agree.

          • Offgridman

            “Now we agree”
            Fair enough.
            And all it took was taking the time to converse back and forth. If only we could get our politicians to do the same instead of always having to insist that they are right and everyone else is wrong.
            Thanks for the conversation, have a great day.

          • rockyredneck

            It has been good,

          • The relationship between oil depletion and increasing renewable capacity is one of the most interesting unknowns of our time. On the one hand we’re a little past the 2005 peak of conventional oil extraction, on the other EV’s and renewable power installations are increasing exponentially from a small base. In the limit, the exponential dominates the Hubbert curve because there’s no upper limit on the exponential and the Hubbert curve can only fall as far as zero; but what about the next couple of decades?
            High gasoline and diesel prices are already a strong argument in favour of electric vehicles, with gasoline at least four times as expensive as the electricity per driven mile. The biggest obstacle to faster EV adoption is initial cost. Once economies of scale and engineering experience kick in, an electric vehicle should cost a lot less than anything containing an ICE. The question is how long the economies of scale and experience will require to take effect.

          • rockyredneck

            I do not put a lot of faith in models, such as Hubberts, as a predictive tool.
            I agree that conventional oil likely peaked about 2005. Total world oil production does not seem to be following Hubberts bell curve. Rather it has been pretty flat while
            prices trend up. This indicates to me that price and technical advances may not be enough to keep production rising. However, I don’t think production will drop quickly either.
            We may have nearly peaked in total production. It probably wouldn’t take much of an increase in demand to send prices skyrocketing.
            The big question, as you point out, is if EV production and adoption will happen fast enough to reduce
            demand significantly. At the present this does not look that encouraging as yearly EV sales do not even match the annual increase in demand for automobiles.
            Perhaps manufacturers will start to push EV sales as a way to avoid the consequences of extreme oil prices and the inevitable economic constraints that would accompany them.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Don’t overlook the fact that rising oil prices would push EV and PHEV sales. The existence of even limited range electrics caps the price of oil.

          • Adam Grant

            My personal explanation of the last ten years of flat world production is that the classic Hubbert curve describes production in a given region (call it Region A) when there are other regions to escape to. As costs rise in Region A, drilling companies’ attention moves to newer fields, and production in region A declines as per the Hubbert curve.
            Now that the world has run out of cheaper regions to escape to, drilling companies are left with regions from which the cheap hydrocarbons have already been extracted. As the cheap oil that’s still flowing from many fields is no longer sufficient to meet world demand, the price rises until more expensive extraction methods (deep water, tar sands, fracking) can meet demand.

            I think there’s broad agreement that the oil fields from which you can extract oil at $20 / barrel have been found and exploited. It’s another very interesting question how much $40 or $60 oil is out there.

            An important point: oil producers are making most of their profits on oil from old $20 / barrel wells. Just because there are no longer enough such wells to satisfy world demand doesn’t mean they’ve ceased to exist, just that their production volume falls off as the years pass. This is how the Saudis can afford to drop their prices to undercut fracked oil. I would argue that the supply of cheap conventional oil has been falling off as per the Hubbert curve, which should affect oil producers’ finances strongly over the next couple of decades (if competition from cheap renewables doesn’t finish them off first).

          • rockyredneck

            That old wells that are still pumping are profitable is not arguable but costs are not necessarily constant. Older wells typically need more services and enhancement techniques. For example, they often produce a high percentage of water that has separation, transportation and disposal costs.
            A large part of the cost of the easy oil was from the exploration for it. The roadside is littered with corporations that ran out of money before they found any oil. The big ones avoid this by buying their oil properties from the lucky ones.
            The gross income of oil producers may start to decline as their supplies dry up, assuming that there is an upper limit to oil prices. It doesn’t necessarily follow that their profits will disappear. Oil companies are not static entities but can diversify, downsize or cut costs.
            Unconventional oil requires large upfront investment, but the end result is that they will produce oil at a more or less known cost. It is not the realm of the wildcatter. The major risk is the market rather than a dry hole. Moreover, the amortization of capital is a major factor in profitability and older operations using the same source can have better profit margins. It is, however, only cash costs, in relation to returns, that can force a stop in production.
            There is one other piece of evidence that we are past peak oil. Oil and natural gas prices at one time followed in lockstep at about 6 to 1. About the ratio of their respective energy values. That hasn’t held true for some time and oil prices have not been forced down by this cheaper alternative.
            With declining supplies it is arguable if cheap alternatives will substantially effect oil prices. After all, the alternatives were available long ago. They just never gained traction while oil prices climbed, more or less steadily.

          • Bob_Wallace

            There’s a new alternative – batteries.

          • rockyredneck

            Yes, better and cheaper batteries may be the hinge.

        • Offgridman

          Agreed on both facets, top down policies and planning will help this change happen faster and in a more organized manner. Also that what the regular people do or hands on the wrenches as you put it is necessary too.
          Do I think that this total change will occur in the next 25 years as proposed by the study? Unfortunately no, but I do see a lot of signs around the world the change is happening, and what is driving it is the straight out economics.
          In central and south America, China, India, Africa, parts of Europe, and according to the latest report all of the US by 2016 renewable energy has met grid parity with fossil fuels. India and China have established policies to cut coal use and are doing massive build outs of wind and solar in its place. While not currently portrayed in market price oil and natural gas is getting more expensive and harder to access. And with the UN meetings this fall and next spring we could actually achieve global consensus on climate change and the need to curb CO2 and other emissions, while many countries (including the US) are already involved in doing so.
          For the bottom up, have you heard of the hundreds of thousands of homes, starting in Bangladesh 20-25 years ago, but now spreading to India, Africa, Phillipines and other places now are producing their own energy with solar and biogas? It starts out with just enough for a light, or to charge a cellphone but then keeps growing so that now there are businesses in place to help them finance fans, TV’s, computers and etc all powered by their own energy production. These are starting to spread almost as fast as we saw cellphone adoption taken up around the world, which also takes care of not just communication but the spread of information and knowledge.. This spread of knowledge is also what has some saying that we have about reached peak world population. An informed populace learns not only how to limit their reproduction, but the reasons for doing so.
          I know that there are still all sorts of conflicts around the world, but most of those are based on acquisition of resources or control of energy. As more and more people learn that they can generate their own energy and thus produce their own resources (with the help of the spread of knowledge) the reasons for and then the conflicts will reduce.
          There are all sorts of reasons to see the glass as either half full or half empty. Perhaps it is just my prejudice or a hope for a better world for my children, but by avoiding the drama of the mainstream media and seeing all the wonderful things happening around the world as described on this site and others like it. It seems as if we have a glass half full setting next to a bottle that has only had that one glass poured from it.

          • rockyredneck

            Like you, I see much good happening as well. I think you are putting the cart ahead of the horse when you say that most conflicts are based on the aquisition of resources. I think it is the wealth generated by these resources that make conflict based on religious and idealogical hatreds possible, and more deadly Acquiring arms and fighters is costly

          • Offgridman

            Well this puts us into circular logic in a way. Do ISIS or the government’s of the middle east try to control the oil shipments to promote their religious, ideological, or political beliefs, or does the promotion of those beliefs or a desire for power make them realize the need to control them.
            In either case the growth of renewable energy and consequent devaluing of the oil supplies will help to constrain their political, religious, or ideological power. They are free to believe whatever they want in my opinion, so long as they don’t have the power to force it on me or others.

          • rockyredneck

            Can’t argue with that. Believe what you want but try not to force it on others. Doesn’t seem to be the norm though.

  • Offgridman

    In Germany it is the citizens not so much the companies that are paying more for electricity, but it was their choice when establishing the energiewende to convert to renewable energy. Recent polls show that the majority is still in favor of doing so.
    Yes the past few years have seen an increase in coal usage, because the Fukushima incident caused a lot of concern so it was decided to shut down their nuclear plants earlier than previously agreed. But ’14 has seen another decrease in coal usage thanks to the surplus of wind and solar production.
    Another reason for the increase in coal use was the increasing cost of natural gas from Russia, but that was mainly due to politics over the Ukraine situation. But thanks to the increasing amounts of storage this year and the implementation of conservation measures (zero energy homes and businesses) Germany is on its way to energy independence, and won’t have to worry about using the Russian gas.
    It has been a many years since solar has only been for the elite as you put it. Even when setting up my system it had reached grid parity in places with high utility costs. My system was set up with the money from my middle class retirement, and would have been grid tied except for the ridiculous price the utility wanted to charge to run the power lines to the home we were building. Even with the added expense for the batteries, control systems, and special appliances for offgrid use, the avoided bills for the first 4-5 years mean that our electricity is now essentially free.
    Another aspect on the costs of solar have been the test results from the past few years on good quality panels show that just planning on a twenty year life is totally off base. It should be no problem on planning for 95%or higher production for fifty years or longer. This is going to be an entire paradigm shift for the utilities and people with solar in the future.
    Have a great day, for the sake of your wallet go solar as soon as you can, and this fall vote for the people that will get us to all renewables sooner for the sake of everyone else’s.

    • S Morris

      Thank you sir and we’ll definitely do it before the federal tax break runs out. I hope the Feds extend it. We’re going to do it sometime next year, and the cost of the panels should continue to drop, while efficiency will increase. It’s a beautiful thing.

      • Offgridman

        “It’s a beautiful thing”
        So very true! The tax credit can be helpful, but even with not being able to take advantage of it mine have paid for themselves. With prices per watt being down to about a tenth of what I had to pay back then the tax credit is really unnecessary, but like you I hope it is renewed to help encourage people to go solar. This is why I was talking about our votes being so important this year and in ’16, the politicians that are still ignoring or denying climate change and the need to switch to renewable energy for the sake of our national security really need to be sent home for good.
        The one benefit that I never considered before going solar that has become important to me is having no power outages over the past eight years, while my neighbors still suffer through 2-4 a year.
        With the cost of storage dropping so dramatically in the past couple years you may want to consider having at least some backup, even with a grid tied system. To be able to at least keep some lights on and the refrigerator running in case of an emergency offers a sense of security for your family and yourself that is worth the extra expense.
        Years ago we hosted a super bowl party after a bad snow storm knocked the grid out around here, even though we don’t usually watch it. People that I run into very rarely still thank me for doing that, though I am still known as that crazy hippy on the hill with the solar panels. This is a very conservative rural community, but the little kindnesses like that have led to their excepting me, eccentricities and all.

      • Offgridman

        Mr Morris,
        There is a new post on this site today that does a much better job of explaining why natural gas isn’t really helping our environment, than I do.
        It is titled “Renewables and Energy Efficiency Responsible for 70% of Carbon Emissions Drop Since 2007”.
        Hope that you get an opportunity to check it out.
        And again have a great day.

  • Bob_Wallace

    For many of those small towns it’s likely to be a “strip and leave” boom.

    The small towns that are truly better off are the ones hosting wind farms. Those lease payments, operational jobs, and tax revenues are going to keep on flowing long after the gas industry has sucked the ground dry.

    • S Morris

      It’s extremely likely that there will be significant oil and gas activity in places like North Dakota for many decades and the built up areas around Williston, North Dakota, for example, are very likely to continue providing stead, high-paying work for a very long time. Considering that we cannot build enough wind capacity to be energy independent, shutting down the light, sweet oil (easier to refine) of the Bakken in favor of windmills doesn’t really make sense. However, did you know that North Dakota is now one of the leading states in wind power generation? That’s a good thing. Wind and Solar is great, and eventually will take over. However, today we still need lots of gas, and lots of oil until the inevitable transition occurs…gradually.

      • Bob_Wallace

        “Considering that we cannot build enough wind capacity to be energy independent”

        We can’t? When did they revise the laws of physics?

        BTW, do you realize that one does not get electricity from a windmill?

        Yes, we will continue to use gas and oil for a while. We won’t transition off of them overnight. But renewables are growing exponentially and a lot of people are likely to be very surprised when their fossil fuel market dries up.

        • S Morris

          LOL we’re going to need a lot more windmills and then we’ll have the Audubon Society, and NIMBY folks protesting bird fatalities and exotic health conditions caused by windmills. I say, more wind – the more the merrier.

          A matter of semantics: Windmills generate electricity by transferring energy from wind to a turbine. C’mon man.

          The fossil fuel market will dry up not because we’ll run out of fuel, but when renewables replace fossil fuels for economic reasons. In the meantime, thank goodness we have fracking to save our economy, and improve our environment by replacing dirty coal, with natural gas, and keeping your car running with American oil, instead of oil purchased at an extremely high price, from countries that are not particularly friendly towards women’s rights, Democracy, and other attributes.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Actually the Audubon Society supports wind energy.

            NIMBYs are pretty generic. They oppose anything that has an impact on their lives.

            Mills grind grain. The term “windmills” is used by anti-wind people. Perhaps you weren’t aware of that. Wind turbines is the accepted terminology in the industry.

            We may, in fact, run out of NG. We clearly could at some point, NG supplies are finite. The industry likes to talk about a 100 year supply (or something like that). If you look at the known and proven supplies and don’t include the speculative stuff and look at how much we’ve increased use in the last few years you’ll see that we could see supplies tightening in a couple of decades.

            NG is a useful tool for helping us get coal shut down. But NG is as well a nasty character, just a slightly less nasty character. The quicker we can get both coal and NG out of our lives the better.

            American oil does help the American economy. And,overall, oil extracted in the US probably causes less environmental damage than in places such as some African countries where environmental regulations never come into play.

          • S Morris

            Actually, the Audubon Society is not always for windmills, or “wind turbines,” especially as it affects eagles.

            We’re not running out of natural gas in the next hundred years, at the very least, and solar, wind, geothermal will have replaced fossil fuels by then. Today’s Peak Oil zealots would have been founding members of the Flat Earth Society in the 15th Century.

          • Bob_Wallace

            “Audubon strongly supports properly sited wind power as a renewable energy source that helps reduce the threat posed to birds and people by climate change. However, we also advocate that wind power facilities should be planned, sited, and operated in ways that minimize harm to birds and other wildlife, and we advocate that wildlife agencies should ensure strong enforcement of the laws that protect birds and other wildlife.”


            I’ve never seen anyone advocate killing eagles.

            I’ll copy this over-

            The shale revolution has been greatly overhyped. Not too long ago the estimate of recoverable oil from the Monterey formation was cut by 96%, and with that cut the estimate of total U.S reserves was cut by two thirds.


            Previous to that the U.S Geological Survey had cut reserve estimates of the Marcellus shale by 80%.


            It now appears that U.S. shale production will peak by 2020, perhaps as early as 2017.


            Fracking wells have precipitous decline rates and maintaining production means drilling more wells in less and less favorable plays. The economics are not propitious.



            In 2010 the EIA reported we had 2192 tcf (trillion cubic feet). But only 842 tcf was in known and proven gas fields. Another 736 tcf is ‘possible’ – there are places where we would expect to find more gas. And the final 614 tcf is labeled ‘speculative’, whatever that means.

            I can’t see the sense in basing our future plans on the ‘speculated’ part, so let’s limit ourselves to the 1578 tcf that we are likely to find.

            In 2010 we were burning 24 tcf per year. If we continued to burn at that rate we would exhaust our supply in 66 years. But we’ve increased our burn rate.

            In 2010 the US generated 988 TWh (Terawatt hours) of electricity using natural gas. In 2012 that number increased to around 1,470 TWh. A 49% increase in burn rate. If we increased our annual burn rate by 50% over 2010 rates then our ‘known, probable and possible’ supply runs out in 44 years.

            If we export and start using NG on large scale for transportation isn’t it likely that we’ll burn/export at a significantly higher rate than 36 tcf?

            Then in January 2012 the US Department of Energy lowered the 842 tcf ‘known and proven’ to 482 tcf based on more detailed information provided by gas explorations in shale deposits in the preceding year. Wells are slowing production much faster than was expected. That’s a 43% drop.

            So, double the 2010 burn rate and you cut our supply from 66 to 33 years. Downgrade the supply by 43% based on recent well findings and we’re now at 19 years.

            That is not a long future for natural (and coalbed) gas.

          • S Morris

            The U.S. has enough natural gas reserves to last generations, and we’ve only scratched the surface, of onshore and offshore resources. We’ll have fully transitioned to solar, wind, geothermal, fusion, etc., way before we run out of gas. Have a good day, and remember that the earth is round.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Perhaps you should contact the DOE and give them the real numbers.

            Won’t they be surprised…..

        • Gene_Frenkle

          The more natural gas the more wind and solar and EVs can be integrated into the grid. Natural gas prices will rise and wind, solar, and EVs will drop in price so the fracking boom will be great for wind and solar in the long run. Natural gas is also better for distributed generation which investing huge amounts in nuclear and coal plants would undermine.

          • Bob_Wallace

            I don’t disagree with most of what you say. I do think NG will have a minimal impact on EV growth.

            EVs are likely to hurt NG. Because EVs will need to charge, on average, less than 3 hours per day and spend 90% of their lives parked EVs could be excellent dispatchable loads. Charge them when there’s excellent wind and solar generation and drop them out when the supply:demand ratio tightens.

            That will mean that we can build more wind and solar without subjecting wind and solar to periods when there is no market for their product. Charge off the peaks and all that extra build out can cover demand at other times. This will mean less of a role for NG.

          • Gene_Frenkle

            EVs are simply great for more efficient use of energy and reducing oil consumption, so as long as more EVs are on the road then the US is moving in a positive directiong. In CA and AZ EVs could charge at work underneath solar panels, in Texas wind and natural gas can charge at night, in the Northeast CHP using natural gas could charge EVs during the winter months.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Or the NE could use hydro and tidal along with offshore wind.

            We’d be smart to look at NG as our last resort rather than turning to it first. Putting NG last means less CO2 as well as stretching our NG supply as long as possible.

          • Lynne Whelden

            …not to mention I personally know people whose private wells were ruined by nearby drilling.
            I bet “S.Morris” is paid by the gas industry to troll these web sites.

          • S Morris

            Yes I admit it, I’m paid by the gas industry to write comments in this forum.

          • When plugged in for the night, a smart dispatchable car would begin by drawing enough energy to go for a short trip, say, to the hospital. Then it might wait to top its battery off until prices go down, which might involve a dialogue with a central power authority:
            Car: “I will need to draw X kWh over the next 9 hours. I can draw at 4 A.”
            Central: “4 cents per kWh until midnight, 2 cents per kWh until 7AM, 6 cents per kWh until 9AM, -1 cent wind specials will be announced 10 min ahead between 1 and 5 AM”

          • Bob_Wallace

            I suspect we’ll move to even more control by the utility than just control by pricing. (Obviously the paranoid will be able to opt out.)

            It would be to the utilities advantage (I.e., they’d pay a bit/give a better rate) if drivers set a “morning minimum” and let the utility control the actual charging times on a more granular level. If, for example, wind was really strong for a couple of nights then the utility might full charge all participating EVs and then let them miss charging for a day or more. As long as the morning minimum was available when the driver started out for the day.

            On nights when demand was taxing supply then the utilities could stagger charge times to flatten out demand peaks, keeping the most expensive supply off line.

  • Think about those towns in North Dakota and elsewhere that have grown by 1000% since fracking and/or directional drilling started. Wait until it goes bust and then those same towns will have 10 times more infrastructure to maintain than they can afford to maintain too.

    Kind of like large areas of inner-city Detroit today where there are entire neighborhoods where only 10-15% of the 1970 housing stock remains, how does the city afford to continue to maintain city services to those homeowners and at a price that they can afford?

    • S Morris

      Sounds good to me when millions of blue collar workers go from unemployment, or underemployment, to very well-paying jobs. Not everyone in the U.S. has a Masters Degree, and is able to spend their time in marinas.

      • Hans

        How is this a reaction to the points brought up by Mark?

  • S Morris

    More wishful thinking from Chicken Littles. The U.S. now leads the world in oil production, and there is zero scientific evidence that there is any imminent bust. U.S. oil production will surge for years to come. Meanwhile, the natural gas boom means that the U.S. is rapidly shifting from coal, to gas power generation, and our air pollution rates are dropping dramatically, while our friends in Europe are suffering from increased air pollution because they’re importing our coal that we previously used for power.

    How ironic that environmental cultists are taking steps that result in more air pollution, more cancer, heart disease, and other maladies. Aside from the environmental benefits of drill, baby drill, let’s not even focus on how the fracking revolution has pulled us out of a recession, and provided millions of good blue collar jobs.

    • Gene_Frenkle

      Don’t forget about diesel in “green” Europe–50% of new cars are diesel in Europe.

      • S Morris

        Yes and it’s a good example of how individuals make decisions based on what is best for them economically. Diesel is much worse than gasoline for air pollution.

        • Offgridman

          But actually it is a very poor example of the choices of individuals. The high adoption of diesels was very much influenced by government policies, which in England and Europe are now being reversed towards EV’s and hybrids.

          • S Morris

            Thank you and I had no idea. We live in DC and we have a south-facing roof ideal for solar energy, and we intend to get as much of our energy from the sun as possible. Our next car will be an electric, not a gas or diesel, or even a plug-in hybrid but a 100% electric vehicle. I’m not against solar, or wind, and also recognize that our country’s economy was saved by fracking, and our my two children breathe cleaner air thanks to fracking.

          • Gene_Frenkle

            I have the same position. Fracking is what seperates the US from the floundering European economies. I will be buying a Volt next year but at the same time I celebrate fracking. To me fracking, the Model S, and the Chevy Volt are great examples of American ingenuity and work ethic.

          • S Morris

            Gene, we’re exactly on the same page. New York state is a microcosm of the European environmental nuts, and thankfully most other states are more interested in scientific rationale, instead of fraudulent propaganda like “Gasland.”

            You should read, The Boom: How Fracking Ignited the American Energy ..

          • Offgridman

            Thank you for letting me know your future plans. Currently all of our electricity has been coming from solar and a wind turbine for the past eight+ years, and our next vehicle is going to be a pure electric also, as soon as a long enough range and all wheel drive are available to deal with our rural environment. (Model X).
            While the gas from fracking has helped somewhat with improving the environment for our children, can you understand that if all the investment money and government subsidies had instead gone towards investment in renewable energy and efficiency improvements we would have had an equal or better improvement to the economy, such has been seen in Germany. And at the same time the environment would be in a much better condition for our and everyone’s children, including those affected by the fracking “boom”

          • Gene_Frenkle

            In Germany the unintended consequence is that diesel is now the engine of choice to drive over 100 mph on the Autobahn. At high speeds all engines are inefficient but diesels make high speed driving easier because the gas tank doesn’t have to be filled as often. From everything I have read the Tesla Models S won’t sell in high volumes in Germany because the range on the Autobahn is less than 150 miles and electricity is expensive.

          • Offgridman

            It seems to me that I have to say kind of yes and kind of no to your comments on the Model S. The latest D sport modification allows for higher speeds and longer range at those speeds, so might satisfy those drivers on the autobahn.
            As for the cost of electricity, the continuing expansion of the supercharge network makes that irrelevant, as battery charging is free.
            With Tesla only recently being available in Europe let’s give it another three or four years for the charging network to be installed, and the new less expensive models to be released before a definitive decision is made as to whether they will be accepted by German drivers or ones from other countries.

    • Lynne Whelden

      I guess I’m a “cultist.” Who knew that busts need “scientific evidence” to observe shuttered storefronts! My little town has already been through one boom/bust cycle. I can show you businesses that left town, food delivery services that came and went, newly built motels that sit empty.

    • JD234

      “The U.S. now leads the world in oil production, and there is zero scientific evidence that there is any imminent bust.”

      You present zero evidence of your own claim, directly below an article that presents quite a lot of evidence otherwise.

      And your use of “windmills,” “Chicken Littles,” and “environmental cultists” shows that you are not arguing in good faith (which in turns suggests that your supposed concern for “blue collar jobs” is unlikely to be in good faith either). Please leave until you are willing to present facts and argue without pejoratives.

    • Joseph Dubeau

      “Aside from the environmental benefits of drill, baby drill, let’s not even focus on how the fracking revolution has pulled us out of a recession”

      No it did not. The economy recovered before gas prices fell.
      What environmental benefits???? Most people don’t want in their town.

    • ttman

      It would be great if you could just confidently proclaim things and they became true. The price of oil until the last few months had plateaued at the highest level (adjusted for inflation) ever. That is because production has not been able to maintain historical increases while demand growth continues.
      Conventional oil production is below it’s peak in 2011 and sitting here it was in 2004. Only fracking, tar sands and NGLs are increasing. Once fracking goes down – predicted by the EIA to be 2019 – then terminal decline should set in barring some miracle.

  • Lynne Whelden

    I remember someone saying that $70/barrel oil will make fracking for oil unprofitable. As of today (Tuesday) it’s at $80 and continuing to fall.

    • S Morris

      It’s actually $56 and dropping as companies continue to use technology, and new approaches, to lower the threshold.

  • Shane 2

    I remember when peak oil was going to hit around 2010. By 2015 oil would be $300 a barrel. Now gas prices are falling. Peak oil will come, but predicting the year or even the decade is a fools game.

    • ttman

      Without a prediction how do you prepare for it? Peak Oil is within sight. Only fracking, tar sands and NGLs are keeping us from being at the same production level now that we were in 2004. When fracking peaks in 1 to 4 years, that should send the world into terminal decline.

  • Joseph Dubeau

    Every Boom eventually comes to a Bust.

    I heard on NPR a women from Denton, Texas say she “believes in Drill, Drill, baby drill.” But she said doesn’t want it in her town.

  • David in Bushwick

    It’s too bad we need natural gas right now to get us off coal. Fracking is helping that happen but regret down the road could be very painful.
    Overpopulation has put us in a very bad situation.

    • The8thDwarf

      Overpopulation nothing…greed, deregulation and lack of the limited oversight that there is. It only feels like overpopulation because the aforementioned issues have taken on a life of their own. Poisoned water wells from fracking and changing weather/rainfall patterns and a rise in sea levels will make it feel much worse.

      • ttman

        The problem of finite fossil fuels that deplete with usage combined with infinite population growth cannot be rationalized away.

    • Offgridman

      But the thing is we don’t really need that natural gas, if the money spent and the subsidies provided to fossil fuels was immediately diverted to alternative energy we could be switched over very quickly.
      But the legacy industries and the politicians that they control are hanging in for every last dollar that they can get.
      The latest Stanford study showed that we could be totally switched by 2040, just by using the current fossil fuel and energy expenditures instead. . No extra cost, just what we will be spending anyways.

      • Mint

        2040 is a long time away. Not exactly “very quickly”. Moreover, studies never consider a time evolution of these completely renewable systems, instead just assume the whole system is built and cost is averaged. In the real world, the cheapest parts get built first, and the rest is considered on a marginal basis.

        That’s why NG will be part of the future for a long time. My guess for best case by 2040 (barring any major development in nuclear) is 75% renewable and 25% NG. Some of that will be biogas, but it’s still not a big reduction from today (possibly an increase in absolute TWh/yr). I don’t think ultra-cheap storage (<$10/kWh) will pan out, so we'll have to overbuild renewables to reach that point.

        But even then, it'll be a big milestone if we stop using coal. GHG reduction isn't even half the story, as NG is so much cleaner when it comes to particulates, SO2, etc. Anything that increases the price of NG, such as a ban on fracking, helps coal linger around for much longer.

        • Bob_Wallace

          2040 is 25 years away. We’re now around 25% NG production. What you’re basically saying is replacing coal and whatever nuclear drops out along the way. To do that would mean moving about 2% of today’s production to renewables per year, which is very doable. We’ve shown that we’re capable of doing 1% per year with wind.

          Given that many climate change deniers will be dying out over the next decade or so and that wind and solar will become ‘big business’ thus gaining political clout it seems to me that 2% per year will be pretty easy.

          By ‘best case’ would be higher than 75% but I’d be really happy to see us hit that level by 2040.

        • Offgridman

          Perhaps it is just my perspective, but a switch to total renewables by 2040 does seem ‘quickly’ to me. But then to I have been waiting since the 1970s for everyone else to realize that it is even feasible. Also 25+ years is way better than the century or two time line that the fossil fuel companies would rather follow while they make every last dollar out of the in ground supplies. But we know that if we leave the decisions up to them, then the effects of climate change will become even worse.
          We are already seeing a reduction in coal use in the US and China due to the better economics of wind and solar and a need to stop the atmospheric pollution.
          So yes while natural gas has fewer emissions at the power plants, it doesn’t take into account the damage caused by the methane leaks during drilling and or fracking, the damage caused by earthquakes from the reinjection under high pressure of the wastewater, or the contamination and usage of our fresh water supplies, just to access that natural gas.
          So with our usage of natural gas already at approximately 25% for total energy production (your forecast for 2040),we need to do something now about limiting its use and production, or it will be even higher in 25 years. This will not do anything to improve our environmental situation, just further enrich the fossil fuel companies and give them more money to control our politics.

          • Bob_Wallace

            We may be able soon to add India to the sagging coal use list.

            First Solar just bid two solar farms at ~ 8.6 cents/kWh. That’s lower than the price of electricity from imported coal. And India now has a solar friendly government.

            I suspect we don’t have to do anything active in order to keep NG under control. Wind is already cheaper and solar will soon be. Battery storage is starting to eat into NG’s role of peak shaving and grid regulation. All that will combine to push NG more and more into a background role.

            If vanadium redox flow batteries really do hit the market at $300/kWh and 25+ year lifespans that’s < 2 cent storage. Overbuilding wind/solar and storing it for small money would eat away a lot of NG's role. Wind and solar can sell (without subsidies) for as little as 2 cents and still make money. 2 + 2 < the price of NG.

            EOS System zinc-air batteries at $160/kWh and 10,000 cycles is also another <2 cent storage possibility. And there's Ambri which may provide storage "cheap as dirt".

          • Offgridman

            Yes I did forget to include India in the list of countries starting to reduce coal usage.
            But as you say the current government is favorable to solar. So just like I mentioned earlier when talking about Georgia and Florida and the adoption of solar, I am concerned that political or corporate influence could cause the over use of natural gas even if it isn’t the most economical solution.

          • Mint

            India’s imported coal will go away within 5-10 years. It’s domestic coal that’s ultra cheap, particularly since the supply is growing.

            Your 2 cent calculation not only implies full cycling every day (e.g. getting the same solar output year round), but also ultra-low discount rate. My 75% renewable guess already includes this “easy” storage. But renewable intermittency isn’t so tidy. $10/kWh means you can cycle it maybe 10-20x per year for those times where a few days are very low output, or a week is medium low output, or a month is kinda low.

          • Bob_Wallace

            I wasn’t talking about the total elimination of NG with wind/solar/storage but reducing/controlling its use.

            Frequent cycling of wind and solar storage will take most of the activity away from NG, leaving it in a deep backup role.

            Where do you see us getting $10/kWh storage?

          • Mint

            Yup, and my 25% NG estimate already includes that reducing/controlling. I’d have guessed 40-50% without any storage.

            I don’t think $10/kWh is likely, hence my guess. Storage that cheap is there in Norway and New Zealand (high altitude lakes), but elsewhere I only see it happening with a moonshot technology like gravity storage (due to 1/r^2 cost scaling):

    • ttman

      But the good news is that this is the least overpopulated we will be. 100 million more projected via immigration in the next 50 years. These are the “good old days” of the future.

  • What’s spooky is the horizontal wells are getting longer and the fracking intervals are getting closer. For instance, Marcellus wells at the onset of the boom were less than a mile long in horizontal run. New wells are approaching and exceeding two miles. Fracking stages use to be about between 500 and 1,000 feet apart. They are now close to 200 feet apart.

    I’m not sure if states increased bonding requirement for plugging and abandonment. Pennsylvania had a ridiculously low bond requirement of $2,500 per well initially. It may have gone up to $10,000. The longer the well and more fractures could mean more problems to deal with after production stops. And higher costs.

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