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Countries with significant shale and/or coalbed methane deposits (estimates of unproven resources). This table does not include tight gas (fracked from rocks of low porosity such as sandstone and limestone, not shales), which is estimated at 45 tcm globally with the largest deposits in the US (13 tcm), China (10 tcm), and Canada (7 tcm).14 Potential Potential recoverable recoverable coalbed shale gas methane (trillion (trillion Region/ cubic cubic Country metres)15 metres)16

Bulgaria

<1

<1

Denmark

France

14

Germany <1

Netherlands 1

Poland

Romania

41

3

4

Spain

<1

Sweden

<1

United Kingdom 1

3

Europe

13

10

Russia

48 See below

Other former 14 See below Soviet states Former Soviet 62 20 – 116 Union Canada 16 6 - 76 Mexico 15 <1 United States 19 11 North America 51 17 – 87 Australia 12 8 - 14 China 32 30 - 55 Indonesia 1 <1 Mongolia <1 Thailand <1 Asia and Pacific 46 38 - 69 India 3 1 Pakistan 3 1 South Asia 6 2 Algeria 20 Egypt 3 Jordan <1 Libya 3 Morocco <1 Tunisia 1 Turkey 1 Western Sahara <1 Middle East and 28 North Africa South Africa 11 1 Sub-Saharan 11 1 Africa Argentina 23 Bolivia 1 Brazil 7 Chile 1 Colombia 2 Paraguay 2 Uruguay <1 Venezuela 5 South America 40 & Caribbean WORLD TOTAL 207 88 - 285

Drill & decline Fracked shale gas and oil wells are not productive for long, with extraction levels dropping swiftly – therefore new wells have to be dug continually just to try to maintain levels. In North America the best fields have already been tapped and no new discoveries are on the horizon.

In the US, 30-50% of shale gas production needs to be replaced each year – that’s over 7,000 new wells.

For tight oil (oil from shale formations) 40% of production needs new wells each year.

I O N

P R O D U C T

G A S

8,000 7,000 6,000 5,000 4,000 3,000 2,000 1,000

1

Shale gas: in the top US gas plays productivity of wells declines 80-95% in the space of 36 months.

Gas Plays: Haynesville Barnett Marcellus

7

13

19

25

MONTHS

31

37

43

C E N T

P E R

100 90 80 70 60 50 40 30 20 10 JAN

Shale oil: well productivity declines 81-90% after 24 months.

FEB MAR

APR

MAY

JUN

JUL

AUG

SEPT

OC T

NOV

DEC

JAN

FEB MAR

APR

MAY

JUN

JUL

AUG

SEPT

OC T

NOV

DEC

MONTHS

. o r g l e l e b u b b

: s h a

S o u r c e partly – perhaps largely – hype, and that a lot of the small investors now being solicited by various investment publications will lose their shirts.’ Double trouble: what about coal seam gas? Fracking isn’t only used on shale formations. It can also crack methane gas out of coal deposits, producing coalbed methane (CBM), also known as coal seam gas (CSG). This gas has been produced using other methods for many years, but the latest fracking technology can greatly enhance the process.

According to the International Energy Agency (IEA) there is an estimated 118 tcm of potentially available CBM around the world, or 36 years of current global gas demand.17 However, as with shale oil and gas these are untested approximate industry figures. Country-by-country estimates reveal huge ranges of uncertainty (see Table), and Halliburton believes that only 29 per cent of the IEA’s estimate is actually recoverable.18 Horizontal hydraulic fracturing for CBM is already under way in several countries such as the US, Canada and particularly

Australia. In Britain, plans to frack for coalbed methane are further advanced than for shale, with planning permission granted for at least 60 CBM wells.19

Sucked dry: a risk to water supplies? Each fracking well uses somewhere between 9 and 29 million litres of freshwater over its lifetime.20 The British water industry group Water UK estimates that a typical 1,000well fracking field would require two million litres per day during its peak, equivalent to the water use of 13,000 people.21 In communities already facing water stress – and those in line for increased droughts as the climate changes – this can have a highly significant impact. For example, the town of Barnhart in Texas ran out of water completely this summer, with local fracking operations at least partly to blame.22

After each fracking operation, between 30 and 60 per cent of the water flows back up to the surface where it is collected for disposal. This water contains the chemicals and sand that were added as part of the fracking process, and also metals, salt and other minerals that transferred into the water while it was underground. In

N e w I n t e r n at i o n a l i s t ●december 2 013 ● 17

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