Sunday, May 29, 2011

Does that solve our oil problems?

The New York Times has a short article about the new oil developments in Texas:

Unlike older oil fields, this isn't conventional oil. The deposits are in shale, which require fracking to release the liquid. Fracking was developed to release natural gas deposits. The process uses large amounts of fresh water. Fracking has a track record of damaging underground water supplies. Toxic chemicals are injected underground. There are significant environmental hazards.

I suspect those concerns will be pushed aside. The nation is desperate.

The Times article states that it could provide up to 25% of domestic production within a decade. That is a significant amount of oil. Of course, during that time period, all other domestic oil fields were be that much older and closer to playing out.

Developing these new fields isn't a sign that everything is going well. It's just the opposite. All the easy to get oil is gone. Now, in our desperation, we are going after the hard to get stuff. There are limits. Once it takes more energy to get the oil than the oil contains, it's game over.

From the viewpoint of national security, it's a critical resource. Venezuela could cut off our supply. A revolution in a place like Kuwait could put a serious crimp in world oil markets. The Texas shale lands and other places will be sacrificed to keep the beast going a bit longer.

If we are really lucky, the time bought by these extraordinary methods will be used to develop alternatives. History provides no comfort there. After our brush with shortages in the 70s, all was forgotten when the Alaskan oil fields came on-line.

For oil, the nation sacrificed the health of the Gulf of Mexico. Don't think it won't destroy the land to get the black gold it's addicted to.

As an individual, there's very little I can do about it. What I am doing is making sure I use as little petroleum products as possible. There are some things I won't have on my conscience.



  1. at our school we are researching a species of switch grass for bio fuel, plant it once and then harvest it over and over and over...etc. so far so good. :)

  2. Around here, the Eagle Ford shale is being heralded as the great salvation. Small towns like Beeville and Freer are absolutely booming, and many land owners have become overnight millionaires. But as it is with most things, folks have very short memories. They're singing "happy days are here again", and failing to remember the oil bust of the mid '80s. And they fail to recognize those things you pointed out...

  3. I remember back when I helped design tooling to update the down hole mud motor that made directional drilling possible. Had no idea back then that it would be use in oil shell.