Editorial: shale boom to increase the gloom?

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Tim Haïdar


"When an argument flares up, the wise man quenches it with silence" - Indian Proverb

The Energy Information Agency (EIA) has projected that by the end calendar year 2013, the United States will have surpassed the Russian Federation in natural gas production by some 300 billion cubic feet (8.5 billion m³).

Yet as the US becomes the world's largest natural gas hub, the skies to the north-east of the Flickertail State tell a story of opportunity lost. Above the extent of the Bakken shale play today, some 1,500 gas flares are burning.

In fiscal terms, $2.4 billion-worth of gas has literally gone up in smoke since 2011. In terms of greenhouse gasses emission, it equates to the sum of two medium-sized coal power stations of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere in the past 24 months.

Around 4.9 trillion cubic feet (140 billion m³) of natural gas per annum are flared worldwide, that's roughly one third of the entire consumption of all 28 states of the European Union combined.

As shale gains prominence in the national energy mix of many of the world's developing nations, the lack of infrastructure for processing flare gas should be a serious concern, both environmentally, monetarily and in the utilitarian sense in an age where giant discoveries are increasingly infrequent.

We would do well as an industry and a species to treat this issue as vociferously as possible....