Monday, August 10, 2009

Clean-Energy Summit: You Want Clean Energy? Shale Gas.

Great Minds and all that.
At the same time I was hitting the send key on the post immediately below, Environmental Capital was posting this:

...They’re still working out ways to boost renewable energy, energy efficiency, and the like, but one thing stands out from the beginning: The green patina that natural gas has suddenly assumed.

John Podesta, the head of the think tank Center for American Progress, twice cited the potential of natural gas—not just any gas, but “shale gas” extracted from underground rocks—to replace “dirty coal.”

Sen. Reid opened his remarks by saying, “I’ve been converted. I now belong to the Pickens church,” in reference to the plan pitched by Oklahoma oilman T. Boone Pickens to ramp up the role of natural gas (and wind power) in U.S. electricity generation. Natural gas has roughly half the carbon emissions of coal when used to generate electricity.

That echoes remarks House speaker Nancy Pelosi last year, when she referred to natural gas—which is, after all, a fossil fuel—as clean energy and an “alternative” to fossil fuels. At the time, that raised a mild firestorm. Now, the idea is apparently mainstream....MORE

Here's where it gets interesting. With the current glut of natural gas the stuff is going to be cheap for a while. That means consolidation in the industry, I'd guess major's picking off Exploration & Production Co's.

This stuff isn't exactly a secret. Last Wednesday the New York Times ran the story:

Is Shale Gas the Climate Bill's New Bargaining Chip?

...Some politically convenient geology

The geographic locations of these new shale gas resources overlap with the home states of many Senate lawmakers, like Sens. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) and Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.), who could make or break the outcome of global warming legislation.

During the House vote, majorities of delegations in Arkansas, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Ohio, Louisiana, Pennsylvania and Texas -- sites of major shale gas resources -- opposed the Waxman-Markey bill. House majorities from New York and Michigan, where shale gas is also found, backed the bill, and West Virginia's delegation split evenly....

...New energy actor lacks a complete script

"Gas would be the backup for wind, but you lose part of the gas market to new wind generation," said Harry Vidas, vice president of natural gas consulting at ICF International. "It's not obvious how that works out."

Robert Zavadil of EnerNex Corp. in Knoxville, Tenn., a prominent consultant on the wind integration issue, said that a big buildout of wind generation could reduce the need for backup by natural gas plants, since a drop-off in wind production in one area could be offset by stronger wind flows elsewhere.

It's possible that the shale gas phenomenon is so new that it hasn't reached its full political weight with Congress.

For example, two of the biggest shale gas plays are the Haynesville Shale in Louisiana and Texas and the Marcellus Shale, extending from New York's Southern Tier through western Pennsylvania and into Ohio and West Virginia. "Only in the last 18 months have Haynesville and Marcellus proven themselves productive," said Curtis, who oversees the Potential Gas Supply report....MORE