The successful development of the Tuscaloosa Marine Shale will have “huge implications” for Baton Rouge and the surrounding parishes, a Devon Energy executive said Tuesday.
One can get an idea of an oil shale’s impact by looking at the Eagle Ford formation in Texas, said Harry Livingstone, exploration manager, new ventures for Devon’s Southern region.
The first Eagle Ford well was drilled there in 2008, and there are now 241 rigs drilling in the formation, Livingstone said. The shale has generated 13,000 full-time jobs and more than $500 million in salaries.
By 2020, the Eagle Ford Shale will have contributed an estimated $11.6 billion to the Texas economy and created nearly 68,000 jobs, Livingstone said. The formation is already the biggest oil boom in Texas history.
Livingstone was one of the speakers at the LSU Center for Energy Studies’ annual Energy Summit. This year’s theme was unconventional plays. Around 70 people attended.
So far Devon has drilled a vertical well and a horizontal well in the shale, Livingstone said. Work on a third well should begin shortly.
He described the first efforts as “science wells,” which will provide information that will help Devon productively drill the shale.
“These early wells we are doing are not economic by any stretch of the imagination. But we figure that 50 wells into the program, costs will be such that the economics are good,” Livingstone said. “The scale of the operation will bring the costs down.”
Livingstone said one of the advantages of shale formations is their sheer size. A 1997 LSU report estimated the Tuscaloosa Marine Shale, which stretches through the midsection of Louisiana, contains 7 billion barrels of oil.
Livingstone said Devon has 250,000 acres under lease in Louisiana and is still adding to its acreage.
“We do think it’s an exciting play. We’re in there for the long term, we hope,” Livingstone said.
Livingstone and other speakers said shale plays and the hydraulic fracturing technology that allow production in the formations have radically altered the energy supply of the United States and the world.
In hydraulic fracturing, chemicals, water and sand are injected into the ground under enormous pressure, cracking the rock and propping it open. The oil or natural gas escapes through those openings.
Livingstone said the industry has known about the Tuscaloosa Marine Shale for decades, but the formation was waiting for the technology to catch up.
Fracking and horizontal drilling, which boosts a well’s recovery area, have made shale production possible.
“This is a U.S.-driven industry. The U.S. is way ahead of the rest of the planet, the recognition of the value, the asset size, the technology for fracking these wells, is all based here in the U.S.,” Livingstone said.
When the international shales take off, the equipment and expertise will come from the United States, Livingstone said. The industry should be cashing in on the demand for those services.
Allan Pulsipher, LSU Center for Energy Studies executive director, cited a National Petroleum Council report that shows the United States is now the top natural gas producer in the world.
In addition, the shales and oil sands in Canada have made North America the largest producer of oil in the world, ahead of Russia and Saudi Arabia, Pulsipher said.
The energy supply picture has completely changed in the past few years, he said.
Mike Power, manager of unconventional resources, drilling and completion for Chevron, said five years ago, U.S. production of natural gas was expected to decline steadily through 2050.
The 2010 forecast shows that by 2035, U.S. gas production will increase by 44 percent, Power said. Shale gas now accounts for 25 percent of the country’s production and will account for half of it by 2035.
The Louisiana Oil and Gas Association estimated that the economic impact of the Haynesville Shale’s, a natural gas play that crosses northwest Louisiana was some $22 billion in 2008 and 2009.
And more than a dozen similar formations have been found throughout the world, Power said.
Chevron is positioning itself to take advantage of shale plays in Poland, Bulgaria and Romania, Power said. The company expects to drill its first well in Poland by the end of the year.
But production in Europe, which imports most of its natural gas, is expected to grow much more slowly, Power said. Many of the areas lack the roads, pipelines and service companies needed to produce the gas.
Cheniere Energy hopes to capitalize on that delay by exporting liquefied natural gas from its Cameron Parish facility to markets in Europe and Asia, said Patricia Outtrim, the company’s vice president, governmental and regulatory affairs.
Cheniere has secured a U.S. Department of Energy permit to export LNG and expects to secure the others needed for the $6 billion facility in the next few months, Outtrim said. The company’s plan calls for it to secure the three additional major permits, including an order from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, by the end of the year.
With the permits in place, the company will move to secure long-term contracts from suppliers and then use those contracts to obtain the financing for the project, she said.
Cheniere has already spent $1.5 billion on the facility, which was planned in the 1990s, to handle imports of liquefied natural gas. At the time, domestic natural gas prices were double and triple the current price of around $4 per thousand cubic feet.
“I can’t tell you what the future’s going to bring, but we feel this facility definitely has at least a 20-year life, maybe longer than that,” Outtrim said.