Energy Security Depends on Natural Gas, Shale and Otherwise

By June 3, 2009Energy

The House Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources, holds a hearing Thursday, “Unconventional Fuels, Part I: Shale Gas Potential.” Shale gas is natural gas, and there’s nothing unconventional about that energy source.

Relatively new, however, is the effective and remarkable expansion of U.S. domestic natural gas resources made possible through technological advances, in this case hydraulic fracturing, or hydro-frac, the process of pumping pressurized liquids into gas-bearing shale deposits to fracture the stratum and release the gas.

Some environmental groups and other activist outfits like Propublica have targeted hydraulic fractioning, claiming it harms the environment. You’ll hear some of that criticism from witnesses tomorrow.

Fortunately, there are several witnesses who can bring real-world experience to the discussion, including Mike John, a vice president with Chesapeake Energy Corp., a global leader in natural gas development. John represents the company’s eastern region, which is where a lot of action is under way with the Marcellus Shale.

Also testifying is Lynn Helms, director of the Oil and Gas Division, North Dakota Industrial Commission. Helms has been a key state regulator and smart observer as hydrofrac has been used to develop the Bakken Formation, an oil-bearing shale formation in North Dakota, Montana and Saskatchewan. The technological advances represented by hydrofrac and horizontal drilling have helped make billions more barrels of oil available for drilling  — creating a much-welcomed energy boom in the prairies. (Lynn testified last year before a Senate Budget Committee hearing on the Bakken Formation.)

The American Petroleum Institute has developed many resources on hydraulic fracturing at its API website here, including a Q&A.

Our view is that if anyone claims to want “energy independence” or “energy security” and then attacks the new technologies that make more domestic natural gas and oil available, they’re just not very serious.



Leave a Reply