Overinflated industry claims could pull the rug out from optimistic growth forecasts within just five years
By Nafeez Ahmed
Friday 21 June 2013
A new report out last week from the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) has doubled estimates of “technically recoverable” oil and gas resources available globally. The report says that shale-based resources potentially increase the world’s total oil supplies by 11 per cent.
Acknowledging fault-lines in its new study, contracted to energy consulting firm Advanced Resources International Inc. (ARI), the EIA said:
“These shale oil and shale gas resource estimates are highly uncertain and will remain so until they are extensively tested with production wells.”
The report estimates shale resources outside the US by extrapolation based on “the geology and resource recovery rates of similar shale formations in the United States.” Hence, the EIA concedes that “the extent to which global technically recoverable shale resources will prove to be economically recoverable is not yet clear.”
Two years ago, following the publication of the EIA April 2011 report a New York Times investigation obtained internal EIA communications showing how senior officials, including industry consultants and federal energy experts privately voiced scepticism about shale gas prospects.
One internal EIA document said oil companies had exaggerated “the appearance of shale gas well profitability” by highlighting performance only from the best wells, and using overly optimistic models for productivity projections over decades. The NYT reported that the EIA often “relies on research from outside consultants with ties to the industry.”
The latest EIA shale gas estimates, contracted to ARI, is no exception. ARI, according to the NYT’s 2011 article, has “major clients in the oil and gas industry” and the company’s president, Vello Kuuskraa, is “a stockholder and board member of Southwestern Energy, an energy company heavily involved in drilling for gas in the Fayetteville shale formation in Arkansas.”