Tuesday, November 20, 2012

"US Shale Gas Won't Last Ten Years"

This is an extreme view, probably promulgated to sell a book, but it highlights the problem with decline rates.
There are some plays which are uneconomic over the life of the well (more money in than out) but which are drilled anyway because of the quick cash flow which can be used as the basis for another round of debt or equity.
Stripped of all the hype, there are E&P companies that are basically Ponzi schemes but with a tail long enough that the miscreants will probably get away with it.
From Resource Investor:
The shale gas "miracle" is overhyped and bound to disappoint. That's what energy expert Bill Powers argues in his upcoming book. But Powers tells The Energy Report that this could be a very good thing for oil and gas companies and their shareholders, and he is placing his bets accordingly.

The Energy Report: Bill, you have a new book coming out next spring entitled "Cold, Hungry and in the Dark: Exploding the Natural Gas Supply Myth." What is your basic argument?

Bill Powers: My thesis is that the importance of shale gas has been grossly overstated; the US has nowhere close to a 100-year supply. This myth has been perpetuated by self-interested industry, media and politicians. Their mantra is that exploiting shale gas resources will promote untold economic growth, new jobs and lead us toward energy independence.

In the book, I take a very hard look at the facts. And I conclude that the US has between a five- to seven-year supply of shale gas, and not 100 years. That is far lower than the rosy estimates put out by the US Energy Information Administration and others. In the real world, many companies are taking write-downs of their reserves.

Importantly, I give examples of how certain people and institutions are promoting the shale gas myth even as they benefit from it economically. This book will change a lot of opinions about how large the shale gas resources really are in the US and around the planet.

TER: How did you obtain your information?
BP: I spent three years doggedly researching this book. Most of the information came from publicly available sources. I used a fair amount of work done by Art Berman, who has written the forward for the book. Art is a leading expert on determining the productivity of shale gas plays. I contacted a lot of other geologists and petroleum engineering professionals and had them review my conclusions about declining production.
Put simply: There is production decline in the Haynesville and Barnett shales. Output is declining in the Woodford Shale in Oklahoma. Some of the older shale plays, such as the Fayetteville Shale, are starting to roll over. As these shale plays reverse direction and the Marcellus Shale slows down its production growth, overall US production will fall. At the same time, Canadian production is falling. And Canada has historically been the main natural gas import source for the U.S. In fact, Canada has already experienced a significant decline in gas production – about 25%, since a peak in 2002 – and has dramatically slowed its exports to the United States.

TER: What does this mean for investors?
BP: The decline is a set-up for a gas crisis, a supply crunch that will lead to much higher prices similar to what we saw in the 1970s.

Interestingly, during the lead-up to that crisis, the gas industry mounted a significant advertising campaign trumpeting the theme, "There's plenty of gas!" Now, it is true that there was a huge ramp-up for gas during the post-World War II period that lasted through the late 1960s as demand for gas for the U.S. manufacturing base grew rapidly. But we hit a production peak in the early 1970s during a time of rapidly growing demand. This led to a huge spike in prices that lasted until 1984.

It was very difficult to destroy demand, so the crisis was resolved by building hundreds of coal-fired power plants and dozens of nuclear power plants. But today, gas-fired plants are popular as we try to turn away from coal. This time around, those options are no longer available. Nuclear plants are still an option, but the time and money involved in keeping our aging nuclear power plant fleet operational, let alone building new plants, will be quite significant.

TER: How will the contraction of the natural gas supply affect its price?
BP: We will see a new equilibrium price for gas at much higher levels than the present. I vehemently disagree with industry observers who say that the U.S. is the next big exporter of liquefied natural gas (LNG). I believe that the US will soon be increasing LNG imports, and that US prices will move back to world levels.
We are currently seeing between $13 per thousand cubic feet (Mcf) and $15/Mcf in South America as Brazil and Argentina import LNG. We're seeing $17/Mcf in Japan and similar prices in Korea. The only place that is not increasing its LNG imports right now is Europe, and that is being made up for by increasing demand in Asia.

TER: How will a contracting supply affect the prospects of companies that are exploring and developing gas fields in North America today?
BP: The companies that can find new reserves of oil and gas will enter a golden era as prices skyrocket. There has been a lot of consolidation in the industry over the last five years. In Canada, very few juniors have started up since 2007. This is the fifth anniversary of the Halloween Massacre, when the Canadian government changed the laws regarding trusts, which really shrank the amount of capital going into junior companies....MORE
On the oil side Bernstein Research has been making the point:
Bernstein on Bakken Decline Rates and Estimated Ultimate Recovery (CLR; EOG; KOG; NFX)
Bernstein Research: "America’s shale oil bonanza won’t lead to an era of cheap energy"
Decline rates.
Probably the two most important words in the U.S. oil biz lexicon....
And on gas:
July 24
Natural Gas: The Astounding Production Decline Rates of Shale Wells

 I've mentioned we heard from landowners that their monthly royalty checks dropped 75% between month 1 and month 12 after completion. This is good news for gas bulls and good news for the well service companies who will be called in to re-frack the wells 4-5 times over their producing lives.
Not such good news for folks who want to see gas back under $2.00....