Editorial: Caveat Excavator - Cracks In The Shale Panacea?

Tim Haïdar


"There is no such thing as absolute value in this world. You can only estimate what a thing is worth to you." Charles Dudley Warner (1829 – 1900)

According to a report released yesterday by the Energy Information Administration (EIA), there now exists an extra 7,299 trillion cubic feet (tcf) of shale gas and 345 gigabarrels of shale oil for the world to play with.

The report took into account 137 shale formations from Argentina to Indonesia, projecting a total rise in recoverable shale oil resources of 11 per cent and a 47 per cent growth in total recoverable shale gas reserves. At current consumption levels this would equate to an elongation of the world’s oil and gas use by one and six decades respectively.

Although this represents a watershed for world energy in an age of dwindling conventional resources, caveat lector. The difference between "technically recoverable" and "economically viable" is often overlooked - the mass exodus from Polish shale gas is a case in point. And with a renewed zeal in environmental regulation and the world hitting record highs of carbon dioxide last year at 31.6 billion metric tonnes, much of these resources may well have to stay locked in the rock and sands in which they hide.

Benjamin Franklin once said that: "the great part of the miseries of mankind are brought upon them by false estimates they have made of the value of things". Caveat excavator.


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