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USGS Releases Survey on Utica Shale Gas Resources, USA

The Utica Shale contains about 38 trillion cubic feet of undiscovered, technically recoverable natural gas (at the mean estimate) according to the first assessment of this continuous (unconventional) natural gas accumulation by the U. S. Geological Survey.

The Utica Shale has a mean of 940 million barrels of unconventional oil resources and a mean of 9 million barrels of unconventional natural gas liquids.

The Utica Shale lies beneath the Marcellus Shale, and both are part of the Appalachian Basin, which is the longest-producing petroleum province in the United States. The Marcellus Shale, at 84 TCF of natural gas, is the largest unconventional gas basin USGS has assessed. This is followed closely by the Greater Green River Basin in southwestern Wyoming, which has 84 TCF of undiscovered natural gas, of which 82 TCF is continuous (tight gas).

“Understanding our domestic oil and gas resource potential is important, which is why we assess emerging plays like the Utica, as well as areas that have been in production for some time” said Brenda Pierce, USGS Energy Resources Program Coordinator. “Publicly available information about undiscovered oil and gas resources can aid policy makers and resource managers, and inform the debate about resource development.”

The Utica Shale assessment covered areas in Maryland, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia.

Some shale rock formations, like the Utica and Marcellus, can be source rocks – those formations from which hydrocarbons, such as oil and gas, originate. Conventional oil and gas resources gradually migrate away from the source rock into other formations and traps, whereas continuous resources, such as shale oil and shale gas, remain trapped within the original source rock.

These new estimates are for technically recoverable oil and gas resources, which are those quantities of oil and gas producible using currently available technology and industry practices, regardless of economic or accessibility considerations.

This USGS assessment is an estimate of continuous oil, gas, and natural gas liquid accumulations in the Upper Ordovician Utica Shale of the Appalachian Basin. The estimate of undiscovered oil ranges from 590 million barrels to 1.39 billion barrels (95 percent to 5 percent probability, respectively), natural gas ranges from 21 to 61 TCF (95 percent to 5 percent probability, respectively), and the estimate of natural gas liquids ranges from 4 to 16 million barrels (95 percent to 5 percent probability, respectively).

USGS is the only provider of publicly available estimates of undiscovered technically recoverable oil and gas resources of onshore lands and offshore state waters. The USGS Utica Shale assessment was undertaken as part of a nationwide project assessing domestic petroleum basins using standardized methodology and protocol.

USGS Releases Survey on Utica Shale Gas Resources, USA LNG World News.

USA: Total Enters Utica Shale JV with Chesapeake

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Total announced that its subsidiary, Total E&P USA, has signed and completed on December 30, 2011 an agreement to enter into a Joint Venture with Chesapeake Exploration, a subsidiary of Chesapeake Energy Corporation, and affiliates of its partner EnerVest Ltd.

In the agreement, Total acquires a 25% share in Chesapeake’s and EnerVest’s liquids-rich area of the Utica shale play located across 10 counties on the eastern side of the state of Ohio, USA.

Yves-Louis Darricarrère, President, Total Exploration & Production, stated “Total is delighted to be building on our technical successes with Chesapeake in the Barnett Shale Joint Venture and to expand into the liquids-rich Utica Shale play in Ohio. This is consistent with our strategy to develop positions in unconventional plays with large potential and, in this case, with value predominantly linked to oil price. This joint venture will provide us with a material position in a valuable long-term resource base under attractive terms and with a top-class operator. Total is conscious of the environmental aspects linked to developing shale acreage and is confident in Chesapeake’s capacity to manage the Utica shale operations in a responsible manner, respecting the highest industry standards.

The transaction is effective as of November 1, 2011. Total has paid Chesapeake and EnerVest about USD 700 million in cash for acquiring these assets. Total will also be committed to pay additional amounts up to USD 1.63 billion over a maximum period of 7 years in the form of a 60% carry of Chesapeake and EnerVest’s future capital expenditures on drilling and completion of wells within the Joint Venture.

The Joint Venture covers approximately 619,000 net acres, of which 542,000 net acres are brought by Chesapeake and 77,000 net acres are brought by EnerVest. Total will acquire its 25% share from each of Chesapeake and EnerVest on identical terms, giving a total of 155,000 net acres. Chesapeake will operate the Joint Venture acreage.

As a result of the transaction, Total will also acquire a 25% share in any new acreage which will be acquired by Chesapeake in the liquids-rich area of the Utica shale play.

To date 13 wells have been drilled across the acreage with very promising results seen from each well in terms of productivity and liquid content. The Joint Venture plans to ramp up the drilling activities in the coming 3 years with 25 rigs planned to be mobilized by 2014 to fully appraise and develop the acreage. SEC production in Total’s share is expected to reach 100,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day by the end of the decade.

Additionally, Total, Chesapeake and EnerVest have agreed to jointly develop the construction of the necessary midstream facilities to export the production from this acreage.

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Unconventional No More: Huge Gas And Oil Plays Emerge

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Controversial estimates of potentially enormous new energy reserves highlighted by energy company strategists have sparked a wave of optimistic forecasts for fossil fuel development.

Natural gas from shale will soon cease to be considered “unconventional”, said vice-president and chief economist of industry group America’s Natural Gas Alliance (ANGA) Sara Banaszak.

“In the next 5-10 years we’ll be done with the word ‘unconventional’,” Banaszak said at the US Association for Energy Economics conference in Washington, DC on 11 October.

“We’re very much at the very, very, very beginning of the revolution, and we don’t even see where this is going yet.

“It won’t make sense to talk about unconventional,” Banaszak said. The Energy Information Administration (EIA) has forecast that shale gas’ share of US natural gas supply will rise to 46% in 2035 from 14% in 2009. “Even today it’s already, by some estimates, between 20% and 28% of the natural gas that’s produced in the United States,” Banaszak said.

The Novelty Of Shale Remains

Despite rapid development of the unconventional gas sector in the US, shale as a viable source of gas is still a relatively recent phenomenon. Both the ultimate volume of recoverable reserves, and their impact on domestic and global markets, remain to be seen.

Read more about how natural gas reserve estimates are made here. For more on the impact of shale gas on US energy markets, read here.

Estimates of natural gas resources available in the United States has risen dramatically in recent years, and upward revisions continue. EIA estimates of potential shale gas resources in the US more than doubled in the agency’s 2011 Annual Energy Outlook from the year before, to 862 trillion cubic feet.

Banaszak compared these rising estimates to previous upward revisions in areas like the deepwater US Gulf of Mexico and Alaska’s Prudhoe Bay. “There’s definitely a pattern, as the industry operates in a new resource area, we learn more about it, we learn to understand it better, and estimates often change,” Banaszak said.

And estimates of both how much is in the ground and how much of it is recoverable, may continue to increase as exploration continues and extraction techniques improve.

“We’re very much at the very, very, very beginning of the revolution, and we don’t even see where this is going yet. Any idea you have about where this is headed is probably still not fully informed, because we’re just still learning,” said Banaszak.

Unearthing Shale Liquids

The same trends of rising production volumes and reserve estimates may be emerging in liquids-rich onshore unconventional fields.

“It is an area where a lot of progress is being made,” EIA deputy administrator Howard Gruenspecht told AOL Energy.

Gruenspecht highlighted the Bakken Shale, which spans parts of North Dakota, Montana, and Saskatchewan in Canada, and the Eagle Ford in Texas, as among the most prominent of US onshore oil plays. He also noted prospects for the Utica Shale, which spans parts of the US midwest and northeast, as well as Quebec.

The Utica “has not provided significant production growth yet, but there is certainly a lot of talk that this will be a liquids-heavy resource,” Gruenspecht said.

See: Utica Shale May Be Its Own Energy Game-Changer.

A study by the National Petroleum Council, an advisory group that represents oil and gas industry views, suggested that at the high end of the spectrum, tight “shale” liquids plays in the US and Canada could hold recoverable resource potential of 10-20 billion barrels, and future production may exceed 1 million barrels per day.

But forecasting with any accuracy is as difficult for unconventional liquids as it has been for unconventional natural gas. “It’s very early days”, said president of consultancy Strategic Energy & Economic Research (SEER) Michael Lynch.

The large shale liquids deposits in the US — which Lynch said number “at least a dozen” — could collectively hold 100 billion barrels of oil in place, with around 1-3% recoverable. Even at low recovery rates, with such a large resource base, “1% means 1 billion barrels”, Lynch said. He suggested that each deposit could add 50,000 barrels per day each year once equipment and personnel are available.

And unconventional onshore oil reserve estimates may rise substantially as new discoveries are made and producers hone techniques to extract liquids from tight rock. “You’re going to get more recovery per well, lower costs, quicker times, and so forth”, Lynch said.

“Tight Race” Between Onshore and Offshore

Tapping oil and liquids from unconventional formations has already begun to impact US oil production, which rose in 2009 and 2010 after declining steadily since the mid-1980’s. But other sources of output, such as the deepwater Gulf of Mexico, may be equally important to future domestic production growth.

Oil production in North Dakota has risen sharply in recent years, recently surpassing 400,000 barrels per day, thanks in large part to the Bakken Shale. But “while the trend in North Dakota and the unconventional resources is certainly worthy of note, it does not replace the offshore Gulf, particularly the deepwater,” Gruenspecht told AOL Energy.

US offshore crude production from the Gulf of Mexico averaged 1.6 million barrels per day in 2010, accounting for almost one-third of total US oil production, according to the EIA. “We’re talking in North Dakota about production that’s well less than a third of the federal Gulf of Mexico production,” said Gruenspecht.

The NPC study lists potential recoverable oil resources in the US Gulf of Mexico at the high end of the range at 40-60 billion barrels — three-to-four times its estimates for unconventional “tight oil”. According to the NPC, production from the Gulf could rise to 3 million barrels per day in the near- to medium-term if discovered reservoirs yield commercial volumes and drilling returns to levels of activity seen prior to the 2010 oil spill from the Macondo well.

But Lynch foresees a “tight race” between production growth from US unconventional onshore plays and the deepwater Gulf of Mexico.

For shale liquids, “it seems like there’s a lot of potential, and the obstacles are relatively few”, Lynch said. Such obstacles could include new regulations that limit the use of hydraulic fracturing, or procuring sufficient hydraulic fracturing equipment to drill large numbers of wells.

In the deepwater drilling areas, companies’ push into new areas has the potential to unearth supergiant fields. “When you start talking about billion-barrel fields, that’s a lot of oil. And the implication is that if there’s one billion-barrel field, there are probably a lot more 400 million barrel fields,” he said.Related Articles

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