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The Shale Exchange 2015 Conference Highlights


October 20 – 22, 2015 over 100 participants gathered in Pittsburgh to focus on emerging technologies and business opportunities in shale resource development and to visit shale field operations. In addition to experts from the U.S., participants included international experts on Argentina, Canada, China, Europe, Netherlands, Mexico, and South Africa. Others represented included exploration and production companies, environmental and engineering service companies, universities, research and development organizations, consultants, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), environmental non-government organizations, and legal firms. The program comprised keynote presentations, expert panel discussions, exhibits, and networking and technical receptions.

Technology challenges and solutions discussed through topical presentations and audience participation included water and solid waste management, efficiency, environmental footprint, life cycle modeling and management of waste streams, wellbore integrity, NORM (naturally occurring radioactive materials), methane emissions, legacy oil and gas wells, shallow stray gas, induced seismicity, waste water injection wells, shale well siting tools, EPA hydraulic fracturing study and enhanced well completion methods. A robust audience discussion considered U.S. DOE, exploration and production, environmental organization and international activities in shale development.

Operational tours that included gas processing facilities, a well services company, and shale drilling and hydraulic fracturing operations offered an important perspective of the size, complexity, and professional level of management of shale development activities.

The following are highlights of the ideas and information from both presenters and audience participants:

United States Shale Development
  • Although it has been only 10 years since the first Marcellus well was drilled; the Marcellus shale region now provides 25% of gas production in the U.S. and is projected to provide 50% by 2035. The Pittsburgh region is in the first decade of a multi-decade, multi-shale play that also includes the Utica and Upper Devonian shales.
  • With less than 10% of the world’s shale reserves, the U.S. is the number one oil and gas producing country in the world. Impressive Marcellus shale production provides the U.S. a tremendous opportunity to catalyze shale development throughout the world.
  • U.S. natural gas prices are less than one-third of those in most industrial countries—providing businesses competitive advantage, households are saving approximately $800 per year due to lower energy prices and CO2 emissions are at a 20-year low (due in large part to gas power generation).
  • Since only about 10% of the acreage has been developed and 25% of gas and 5% of oil in-place can currently be extracted with current technology, there is considerable opportunity for advanced technology and learning to improve efficiencies and increase production to even greater levels.
  • Among the U.S. DOE’s studies and identified research activities are resource optimization, water quality and availability, methane emission reduction, induced seismicity, and field laboratories. DOE is focused on safeguarding human health, mastering the subsurface, and getting more gas out of fewer wells.
  • The environmental dialogue in the U.S. is beginning to focus on practical environmental regulation (with measured results) and ensuring that temporary impact is managed to prevent long-term impact.
    International Shale Development
  • More than 90% of world’s shale reserves lie outside the U.S.
  • Resource characterization is continuing, and the number of wells drilled in countries outside the U.S. is relatively small so there is much to quantify and learn about the huge international potential for shale development.
  • In many countries (outside the U.S.), above ground issues—political, public, collaboration, mineral ownership, density of population and infrastructure—and below ground issues—resource characterization, high well costs, and technology application—contribute to a slower pace of development.
  • Collaboration and learning with U.S. organizations will enable other countries to prudently develop their shale resources.
    Research, Technology, and Education
  • Priority environmental issues cited included air emissions, fugitive methane, toxics, well integrity, spills and leaks, disposal options, and recycling of wastes.
  • Most likely pathways to water impact are surface spills or shallow subsurface routes from poorly constructed wells (oil and gas, and water) or shallow gas bearing formations.
  • The keys to helping advance efficiency and minimizing the environmental footprint for shale development are following the science, collaboration, and sharing lessons learned.
  • Opportunities exist for collaborative and blended learning programs to enable sustainable domestic and international shale development growth.
  • The least impactful well is the one you do not have to drill, so with increased completion, stimulation, and production efficiency come a smaller environmental footprint.
  • Optimizing shale operations layout will concurrently advance land conservation and resource recovery.
  • Since shale plays are in the early stages of development, we should recognize that technology and education will be key to greater production, efficiencies, and the environmental stewardship that needs to accompany future shale development.

    Conference organizer Gas Technology Institute (GTI) is a leading research, development and training organization addressing energy and environmental challenges. Conference sponsors and exhibitors included CH2M, CleanAir, Deloitte Consulting, EQT, Fluid Recovery Services, Ridge Policy Group, Rel-Tek, Tetra Tech, Shale Alliance for Energy Research (SAFER PA), and the University of Pittsburgh.

    Thanks to all participants for contributing to a successful event!​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​


    The Shale Exchange 2014 Conference Highlights

    Over 100 attendees participated in the inaugural edition of this conference. Participants included international organizations and experts from the U.S., China, Mexico, Canada, Japan, and Korea; exploration and production (E&P) companies, environmental and engineering service companies, universities, research and development organizations, consultants, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), environmental advocacy groups, economic development organizations, and legal firms. The program included keynote presentations, expert panel discussions, exhibits, and a networking reception.

    Gas Technology Institute (GTI), a leading research, development and training organization addressing energy and environmental challenges, was the conference organizer and primary sponsor. Shale Alliance for Energy Research (SAFER PA), an independent not-for-profit focused on Pennsylvania shale research and education, was another sponsor, along with the Energy Innovation Center (EIC). EIC is a LEED Platinum Center that will co-locate collaborative university-industry projects, proof-of-concept energy technology demonstration laboratories, an early-stage business incubator, and targeted workforce training programs.

    United States Shale Development
  • It has been 10 years since the first Marcellus shale well was drilled; we are in the first decade of a multi-decade play development.
  • Only about 10% of the acreage in the Marcellus shale has been drilled (about 8,000 wells), production is at a record high in Pennsylvania, and the U.S. is now the leading gas producer – yet about 1,700 wells are shut-in and the Utica and Upper Devonian shales are just starting to be explored.
  • The Marcellus is producing 16 BCF per day and approaching 25% of U.S. production. Unconventional development provides 50% of oil production in the U.S.
  • If the Marcellus shale was a country, its gas production would rank third in the world (behind the U.S. and Russia).
  • The Pittsburgh region is at the center of the “shale boom” that is transforming the regional and world energy picture; our collective experiences and lessons learned here will help inform shale development and opportunities throughout the world.
    International Shale Development
  • Shale gas and oil development in other countries is active or of high current interest in Canada, Argentina, Australia, Algeria, China, Columbia, Mexico, and Poland.
  • In many emerging international markets, above ground (political, collaboration among stakeholders) issues and below ground (resource characterization, technology application) issues contribute to a more modest pace of development.
  • China’s geologic structure is very complex, water resources are a problem, and enhanced characterization of resources is needed. About 400 wells, including 130 horizontal, have been completed.
    Research and Technology
  • Since we anticipate tens of thousands of wells over multiple decades, this research and technology dialogue is very exciting because for every issue or challenge we manage, the impact will be applied to many wells over many years, and provide solutions for all shale development.
  • Resource characterization and recovery efficiency, improved drilling and fracturing fluids, water quality, pathways to groundwater, methane emission reduction, microseismic transporters, and field laboratories are among DOE’s studies and identified research needs.
  • Gas-in-place analysis is an important indicator of total reserve potential of stacked shale plays.
  • Wellbore integrity is critical to avoiding environmental issues and long-term integrity management programs for shale wells need to be considered going forward.
  • Recovery factors range from 15% to 30% for shale gas and 3% to 6% for shale oil (of resource in-place), leaving substantial room for technology to increase production.
  • Core shale areas can have 2 to 3 times the production as less prolific areas, so characterization of formations and reserves is critical.
  • Important E&P technology considerations include: Multi-lateral wells, fish-hook drilling, dissolvable ball systems (to replace plugs), reservoir simulation software, fluid multi-phase flow modeling, reservoir characterization, big data management, proppant transport, tools to image fractures, well treatment design, hydraulic fracturing efficiency increase with concurrent reduction of environmental impact, fracture characterization, and field testing/validation of well treatment efficiency improvements.
  • Considerations for technology providers: Determine who the customer is—it may not be an E&P company (it may be a service provider), define needs, and note that value must overcome time and hassle factor. Considerations for technology users: Define value proposition and manage the activity of sifting through all the opportunities.
  • Research can be challenging since in good times, there is no time, and in bad times, there is no money.
    Environmentally Responsible Development
  • Research and technology challenges that were identified and discussed included: Water and solid waste management, solid waste beneficial reuse (drill cuttings management), smaller environmental footprint, resource characterization, life cycle analysis of waste streams, greenhouse gas reduction, alternatives to fresh water for well treatments, understanding the behavior of chemical additives in the environment, wellbore integrity (tools for detecting and technology for fixing), technology roadmap (including liquids and renewable resources), abandoned wells, shallow stray gas, induced seismicity, waste water injection wells, and water treatment plants.
  • Water usage for hydraulic fracturing in Pennsylvania is less than .5% of all water withdrawals.
  • Contaminant output level for shale development is small relative to the volume of water flux so environmental issues appear to be localized.
  • Most likely pathways to water wells are surface spills or shallow subsurface routes from poorly constructed wells (gas and water) or gas bearing formations (coal and other shallow gas zones). Abandoned gas and water wells are problematic. Gas as found in water wells appeared to have leaked from defective casing and improperly cemented gas wells or from gas formations not linked to zones where fracking took place.
  • Thermogenic methane is present in >30% water wells in some areas (regardless of drilling activity). Naturally occurring methane in domestic water wells can vary greatly over long and very short time frames (making baseline monitoring challenging).
  • Waste management is comprised of critical storage, transport, treatment and disposal.
    Shale Industry Drivers
  • Retirements, cost reduction for gas industry, compliance with changing regulations, new technologies, and development in international markets are currently driving gas industry training.
  • Utilization of natural gas in operations results in important emissions and economic advantages.
  • Overall benefits of shale development include jobs with wide-reaching economic impact, lower energy pricing, increased energy security, lower environmental impact, and manufacturing competitiveness. To enable sustainable development, workforce training, pipeline and other infrastructure, gas demand, and research and technology are needed.
  • Gas processing/fractionation plants, pipelines, ethane cracking and petrochemical plants, utility and power projects, gas-to-liquids facilities, LNG facilities, rail projects, exporting, and shipping are among the needs for infrastructure expansion.
  • Facts and following the science should help guide the dialogue and build the social license to lead.

    For more information about the past workshop contact Patrick.Findle@gastechnology.org​​​​​​​

    Attendees included:

  • Producers
  • International Organizations
  • Service Providers
  • Technology Organizations
  • Environmental Organizations
  • Government
  • National Labs
  • Universities
  • Investors
  • Sponsors:​