Thursday, 9 September 2010

Natural gas from shale rock promises energy revolution

A new source of energy, shale gas promises to add significantly to the
world's energy reserves but there are concerns about the environmental
impact of extraction.

BP's former chief executive Tony Hayward has described it as a "game
changer" in energy supply, the major oil companies are betting millions on
its success and it might just turn Blackpool into the new Dallas.

Shale gas seems to answer the oil industry's desire for an accessible energy
source perfectly just as other sources are becoming more problematic. The Deepwater Horizon disaster demonstrated the dangers of searching for oil
and gas in ever more extreme environments. Alaska, Greenland and the South Atlantic may have tempting oil reserves but
when something goes wrong in deep water or in an isolated region it can be
fearsomely difficult to fix. And this is what is spurring the search for land-based sources of

Shale gas exists in large quantities and promising sources lie close to many
big energy-intensive cities. In terms of electricity production it is a cleaner power source than coal or
oil, and new horizontal drilling techniques are making it easier to reach. "Natural gas is now abundant and the idea that we're going to run out has
miraculously disappeared," says energy market analyst Nick Grealy.

In the United States business is booming with the enormous Marcellus shale
commercial gas field, which runs
through New York State, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, rapidly ramping up
production. Shale gas may already account for more than 10% of US natural gas production
and analysts project that could rise to 50% within 20 years.

Bradford County in Pennsylvania is experiencing what Grealy describes as a
"Beverly Hillbillies-style" gas boom with local farmers making thousands of
dollars a day leasing out the right to drill on their land.

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