'Fracking' Gives U.S. Edge over Russia in Nat Gas


". . .heady predictions that Qatar and Russia would become major exporters to the U.S. have to be revised."

For most of the past decade, Russian leaders and their top officials and businessmen have believed that their huge reserves of oil and gas would guarantee them prosperity and global influence for decades to come. But suddenly some cracks are emerging in that confidence.

As often happens, technology is changing the conventional wisdom. Over the past five years the combination of two technologies has transformed the energy market in the United States and now threatens to do the same elsewhere in the world.

The first new technology is horizontal drilling, which allows one vertical well to tap widely into a whole layer of oil or gas. The second is hydraulic fracturing, or "fracking," which involves pumping mixtures of water and chemicals into certain rock formations, particularly shale rock. This breaks up the shale to release the oil and gas that had been trapped in the rock.

This "fracking" is a game-changer, unleashing our access to oil and gas that were hitherto out of reach. In June 2009 the U.S. Potential Gas Committee reported that advances in extraction technology meant they could estimate U.S. gas reserves as being 35% higher than they were in 2007.

"Our knowledge of the geological endowment of technically recoverable gas continues to improve with each assessment," commented John Curtis, lead author of the report'.

Five years ago the U.S. was planning on building new terminals for importing liquefied natural gas. But now some industry experts expect the U.S. to become a natural gas exporter. The heady predictions that Qatar and Russia would become major exporters to the U.S. have to be revised. Russia's huge investment in the Shtokman field in the Barents Sea was predicated on exporting gas to the U.S., and suddenly that market may no longer exist.

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