Why the U.S. Shale Boom Isn’t Dead
Business + Economy

Why the U.S. Shale Boom Isn’t Dead


Have you ever noticed that during extreme economic cycles, when trends are roaring on the upside, or conversely crashing back down to earth, there often appears an air of extremism in news headlines? Take America’s most recent shale oil boom, and bust, for example. On the way up, you may have seen – Why OPEC Could Be Dead in 10 Years. Conversely, now you may have read, Why It Might Be ‘Game Over For The Fracking Boom’.

In the end, the answer lies somewhere in-between. OPEC, although often plagued with internal discord, will still remain the global defacto 900-pound gorilla of crude, and US producers will continue to find ways to crack shale rock cheaper and more efficiently, immunizing themselves to nail-biting commodity roller coaster dips like what was just experienced. And in 2008 (-55%). And in 2001 (-32%). And in 1998 (-38%)….

BP, in its recently-released “Energy Outlook 2035”, predicts OPEC’s market share will return to approximately 40 percent of global demand within 15 years, up from 33 percent today, which is what all this fuss is about anyway.

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Here are 3 reasons why America’s shale will continue to produce going forward:

1.       Oil companies, both large and small, have seen what is possible.

In 2004, Texas oilman George Mitchell made hydraulic fracture stimulation commercially viable by unlocking the right combination of water pressure and lubricants to allow oil and gas to predictably flow from dense shale to the wellbore. A decade ago, producers believed shale held vast oil and gas resources, but to what extent they could be developed had not been determined. Until now.

Last year for example, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) announced there could be up to 75 billion additional barrels of oil in the Permian Basin, a field believed to be mostly dried up. The EIA also forecast over 100 years of natural gas supply from shale resources, mostly flowing from the vast Marcellus and Utica formations in the Northeast.

One of the biggest reasons America’s shale revolution will continue is producers have seen the potential. As with any industry, technology should drive cost down, and drillers and producers are both mutually highly incentivized to find cheaper, faster, better ways of extraction.

2.       Eventually, politicians might “Get It”.

The shale oil revolution that peaked in 2014 occurred mostly in spite of Washington, D.C., not because of it. With Capitol Hill and the White House mired in political gridlock for most of the last 6 years, oil and gas producers were thus free to explore, develop, and prove the concept that shale development was indeed commercially viable.

In a perfect scenario, the next phase would involve political leadership who comprehends the benefit of an alliance between Canada, Mexico and the United States, creating a formidable energy superpower, ultimately likely leading to North American energy independence from any imported oil.

3.       In spite of the current dip, global demand points up

Related: Why Oil Prices Will Rebound Before We Know It

BP and ExxonMobil, in their long-range forecasts, both allude to the same conclusion - the macro trend for oil consumption worldwide is up. BP predicts a 41 percent increase in demand over the next 20 years, with China and India accounting for half the growth.

ExxonMobil concurs. Basing their forecast on a continued population explosion to 9 billion people by 2040, Exxon theorizes GDP will grow parabolically, and in spite of energy efficiencies that will certainly be realized along the way, demand for all forms of energy will continue to increase. In their Outlook for Energy: A View to 2040, Exxon confirms the “all of the above” theory to meet global demand.

Thomas Hood, English poet, author and humorist was quoted to say, “Extremes meet, as the whiting said, with its tail in its mouth.” Oil producers have work to do. They must reduce costs, continue to solve environmental concerns over extraction techniques, and scale efficiencies. This bust has offered plenty of incentive to accelerate that. But there is still an abundance of oil and gas to be extracted, with ample incentive to figure out the most efficient ways to develop it.

This article originally appeared at OilPrice.com.

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