This essay will discuss tight gas as an important hydrocarbon resource in the
global energy mix today and in the future. It focuses on the estimates of technically recoverable resources (TRR) of tight gas around the world.
Natural gas plays a very important role in the hydrocarbon value chain and represents 21% in the global primary energy mix in 2013. It is expected to rise to 22% in 2020 and 24% in 2040 (World Energy Council (WEC),2016, p.58).
The UN projects the world’s population to grow from the current 7.6 billion to reach 8.6 billion in 2030 and 9.8 billion in 2050 (United Nations, 2017). British Petroleum estimates global primary energy demand to increase by 30% in 2035 and natural gas to grow by 1.6% p.a. between 2015 and 2035 (British Petroleum, 2017).
Tight gas refers to natural gas contained in low-permeability sandstone and carbonate reservoirs rocks (Holditch, 2006, p. 86; Aguilra& Harding, 2012). According to Ma, Moore, Gomez, Clark & Zhang (2015, p.405), tight gas sandstones are “natural extensions of conventional sandstone reservoirs”. Advance extraction technologies such as hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling are needed to develop tight gas to produce at an economic rate (Jidwa Investment, 2013; Kennedy, Knecht&Georgi, 2013). Known resources are found in the USA, Canada, Russia, UK and China (Alejando, 2012; Ahmed and Meehan, 2016; WEC 2013, P.70), with resources of about 210 Tcm, concentrated mainly in North America, Latin America and Asia-pacific regions (Zou, 2012, p.357). However, this appears to be largely speculative.
The International Energy Agency (2012, p.18) reports a recoverable estimate at 76 Tcm. McGlade, Speirs and Sorrell(2013) present a more detailed mean estimate of the remaining TRR of tight gas by utilizing data from a variety of sources. Their estimates of the remaining technically recoverable resources of tight gas sum to 54.2 Tcm. This is more realistic as it encompasses estimates from more regions compared to other sources.
The United States spearheaded the production of tight gas and is currently the world’s largest producer of tight gas (Islam, 2014, p.61; Aguilera and Harding, 2012, p.64). In 2012, tight gas represents 26% of the total US natural gas production (Energy Information Agency (EIA), 2012). A recent study shows that production from tight gas production will be the second-largest contributor to natural gas growth, accounting for about 20% of total U.S. production by 2040 (EIA, 2017, p.58). The Gas Technology Institute (GTI) estimates the TRR of tight gas from known US tight gas accumulations at about 5Tcm (Islam, 2014, p.62).
In Canada, tight gas production hascontributed somewhatto offset declining conventional production.In 2014, tight gas accounted for 47% of total Canadian natural gas production (National Resources Canada, 2016 cited in:National Energy Board (NEB), 2015) Natural gas production forecast shows that tight gas production will increase continuously and contribute majority of production growth, with production reaching 7.9 Bcf/d in 2040 (NEB, 2017, p. 42). In 2015, tight gas resources account for 48.5 percent (15Tcm) of the natural gas reserves (NEB, 2015)
China’s tight gas resources are mainly distributed in five basins: Ordos, Sichuan, Tarim, Songliao and Bohai Gulf basins. Tight gas production is becoming increasingly significant as the country shifts from a dominant coal-based energy to cleaner sources of energy (Lau and Yi, 2013). Philip (2015) reports that as production from tight gas reservoirs reached 31Bcm in 2014 (25% of total gas production). In 2010, 16.9% of the 95 Bcm of gas production came from tight gas.Wang, Mohr, Feng, Liu and Tverberg, (2016, p.392) provide estimates of China’s tight gas resources by tabulating estimates from a variety of sources. They estimate a GIP range from 8.4 Tcm to 110 Tcm and a TRR range from 3.0 – 28 Tcm. This range comes from a variety of sources, it is very hard to verify each source and say which estimate is reasonable.
To end, the US holds the largest of global TRR of tight gas, followed by China and Canada. Many other countries including Brazil, Algeria, Egypt, Australia and various European countries are also intensifying efforts to initiate development of tight gas reservoirs. The potential endowment of tight gas is a good indicator that their efforts should prove fruitful in the long run.
TRR of tight gas in Brazil
In the context of Brazil, there is a certain difference regarding the amount of conventional gas and shale gas. There are 226 TCF of non-conventional gas in Brazil. Total resources of shale gas are 434 TCF. This includes 64 TCF of Bacia do Parnaíba, 124 TCF in Bacia dos Parecis, 20 TCF in Bacia do Recôncavo and 226 TCF in Bacia do Paraná. Regarding the resources of technically recoverable shale gas, Brazil ranked in 10 with 245 TCF of shale gas. As suggested by Melikoglu (2014), this country has advanced with the discovery of pre-salt oils in billions of barrels in amount. The country has also imported LNG of liquefied natural gas in order to process gas in two plants. The amount of imported LNG has reached at 8.6 million cubic meters for each day regarding the statistics of 2012. It also expected to have a giant growth in the future as planned to reach at 10 million for the very next day. As suggested by ANP, national gas and oil regulator of the country is expecting to have 414 trillion cubic meter resources of recoverable shale gas from Parana, Amazonas basins and Solimoes. This will also assist the nation to maintain the 10th position regarding the resources of shale gas. As stated by EPE (Energy research Co.) Brazil could produce 3 million cubic meters of fossil fuel in a day by 2026 if investment appears in the activities of unconventional gas.
TRR of tight gas in Algeria
Authorities of Algeria have suggested Sonatrach, the giant in oil industry to start exploration of shale gas once again. The oil company has announced their plans to invest $70bn for next two decades and aiming to produce shale gas in amount of 20 billion cubic meters in every year from the drill sites. They have drilled 200 sites regarding this context (news24.com 2018). A mixture of highly pressured water, chemicals and sand has been blasted in order to release trapped hydrocarbons between the rock layers under the ground. This is familiar as hydraulic fracturing technology which may contaminate the water under the ground. This is even responsible for small earthquakes. Based on the reserve shale gas, Algeria is intending to capture the fourth place in this rank and this will facilitate the country with $31 billion as estimated for 2017.
TRR of tight gas in Egypt
Egypt is considered as the third largest producer of natural gas in Africa. This nation, as mentioned by BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2017, possesses 65 TCF of natural gas resources. As the government of the country offers minimum price which creates difficulty regarding attraction for investment in order to develop the new projects in this context. Hence, the country has faced a quick reduction regarding the production of natural gas. It has reduced to 4.1 BCF per day in 2016 from 5.9 BCF per day in 2011. Several new projects of gas have been introduced in next five years aiming towards the development of growth of the production of the gas.
TRR of tight gas in Australia
ACOLA (Australian Council of Learned Academies) has stated that there are more than 1000 trillion cubic feet recoverable shale gas in Australia regarding the statistics of 2013. Different areas had held the significant amount of shale gas. As opined by Vidic et al. (2013), this includes Northern South Australia, Western Queensland, The Northern Territory and Western Australia. Application of modern technologies has influenced the production of gas from reserves in more effective and efficient way. Along with the shale gas, there is 819 TCF of known resources of gas and further discoveries are going on. In the year 2013, Australia has exported 1.1 TCF whereas the country economy consumed 1.1 TCF gas.
TRR of tight gas in European countries
Fracking has been criticized in Europe and a protection has risen against it. On the other hand, this has been considered as raising hopes regarding the independence of energy and this also offers fossil fuel in a comparative chip price. Poland started to frack for commercial purposes in 2014 and estimated to gather reserves of 768 billion cubic meters. France, Scotland, Germany on the other hand stopped fracking. This also creates certain challenges for the organizations in this industry. Denmark also creates similar scenario. This influences the production of shale gas and reserves of the gases. Mass protest also plays a major role in this context that develops challenges regarding fracking and Romania also banned the fracking. This also creates additional challenges for the European companies whereas Bulgaria ended ban on fracking.
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