The UT Energy Symposium welcomes Richard Chuchla, Director of the Energy and Earth Resources program in the Jackson School of Geosciences, to give a talk titled "Shale: The Revolution That Wasn’t."
Speaker bio: Richard Chuchla is Director of the Energy and Earth Resources program at the Jackson School of Geosciences at The University of Texas at Austin. Born in Chile of Polish parents, Richard came to the United States to go to school, attending the Phillips Exeter Academy, Cornell University, The University of Texas at Austin for graduate studies. A geologist by training, Richard started his career in base and precious metals, moved to coal, and then oil and gas, working in exploration, development and research. He had the privilege of leading numerous successful exploration and development ventures and worked for ExxonMobil for 35 years.
Abstract: The emergence of shale gas and shale oil has been described by many as revolutionary. While the impacts of shale resources have been profound and far-reaching, neither the resource type nor the related technologies are revolutionary. Rather they have developed over the past 200 years. The first shale gas production which was used for beneficial purposes was in 1825. Recognition of the low permeability (“tight”) nature of the reservoir and the use of (explosive) fracs occurred approximately 25 years later which is when shale gas began to be used in manufacturing. Shale gas field development was underway by at least 1915. The Big Sandy field in Kentucky produced over 1 TCF of natural gas between 1920s and 1965 from approximately 21,000 wells. The first horizontal well was drilled in 1929 with major technological advances occurring in the early 1980s. The first hydraulically fractured well was in 1947 and by the late 1950s, hydraulic stimulation was being widely applied to low permeability reservoirs.
The stage was set for the ultimate emergence of shale gas by the perception of a looming natural gas shortage in the U. S. This led to legislation that restricted natural gas use but also created a tax credit and several federally funded research initiatives to increase natural gas production from tight reservoirs. These produced early versions of many of the important technologies we use today and which were used by shale gas pioneers like George Mitchell. The perceived gas shortage led to a price spike in the early 2000s and other visionary CEOs saw an opening for the current shale gas business.
Our mischaracterization of the emergence of shale gas (and shale oil) has much to do with historical amnesia. Slow recognition of the scale of the resource was the result of rigid adherence to prevailing geologic, engineering and business dogma. This author believes that the “modern age” of shale resource development is in its early stages.
The UT Energy Symposium meets every Thursday during the long semesters. Come early to attend a networking session before the talk: refreshments will be served at 4:45 p.m. in the POB Connector Lobby outside the auditorium.