Wednesday, August 20, 2014
PLACERVILLE, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

Rock doc: New lessons for an aging geologist

By
From page A4 | January 20, 2014 |

When I was young geology student, I learned the basics of petroleum production as they were then understood. Deep layers of sedimentary rocks, including shale, were the “source rocks” for hydrocarbons. The source rocks were too difficult to exploit directly — it just wasn’t economical to mess with them. But through natural processes, the petroleum and natural gas in the source rocks sometimes migrated to “reservoir rocks.” From Saudi Arabia to Texas, the name of the game was to sink wells into reservoir rocks and extract the hydrocarbons that had accumulated there over the ages.
But sustained high prices for petroleum and natural gas, as well as a revolution in drilling and extraction technology, have changed the game, making it possible to extract petroleum from what used to be dismissed as source rocks. And that’s making a world of difference in production. That point was brought home to me recently when I read that crude oil production in the U.S. is now greater than oil imports — the first time that’s been the case since 1995.
The U.S. Energy Information Administration, or EIA, recently published reports saying that oil imports stand at their lowest levels in absolute amounts compared to any time since 1991. That’s due, in part, to the technology of horizontal drilling at great depths underground, as well as hydraulic fracturing, nicknamed fracking.
Changes in the U.S. oil patch are garnering plenty of international attention. The International Energy Agency is the IEA — not to be confused with our EIA. The IEA’s head of oil markets is Antoine Halff.
“Just a few years ago, everybody thought U.S. production was in permanent decline, that the nation had to face the prospect of continuously rising imports — (but) now the country is moving towards self-sufficiency,” Halff said to BBC News.
Some analysts say the U.S. may produce as much petroleum as Saudi Arabia six years from now while others think it won’t take that long. No one can predict the future with certainty, of course, but such estimates show just how much is changing in oil fields.
Natural gas production is also being revolutionized by fracking. Peter Brett of Shell Oil in the U.S. told BBC News, “It’s huge. Just five years ago we were talking about importing liquefied natural gas and bringing that in from overseas, and now we’re looking at self-sufficiency for the next 100 years in natural gas.”
To be sure, the boom in oil and natural gas alarms some people. Environmental costs are one concern, with fracking said to trigger earth tremors and threaten groundwater supplies when chemicals from the operations invade aquifers. Beyond that, of course, more petroleum and natural gas being burned means more carbon dioxide in the air.
But so far it looks like fracking is being accepted in many parts of the U.S., and, unless laws change, the new technology looks poised to bring us more hydrocarbons in the coming decades.
Dr. E. Kirsten Peters, a native of the rural Northwest, was trained as a geologist at Princeton and Harvard. This column is a service of the College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences at Washington State University. 

Comments

Subscription Required

Thank you for reading the MtDemocrat.com digital edition. In order to continue reading this story please choose one of the following options.

Current Subscribers
If you are a current subscriber and wish to obtain access to MtDemocrat.com, please select the Subscriber Verification option below. If you already have a login, please select "Login" at the lower right corner of this box.

Subscriber Verification

Special Introductory Offer
For a short time we will be offering a discount to those who call us in order to obtain access to MtDemocrat.com and start your print subscription. Our customer support team will be standing by Monday through Friday, 8am to 5pm to assist you.

Call and Save! (530) 344-5000

If you are not a current subscriber and wish not to take advantage of our special introductory offer, please select the $12 monthly option below to obtain access to MtDemocrat.com and start your online subscription

Help?

E. Kirsten Peters

.

News

Body found by Hwy 50

By Cole Mayer | From Page: A1

 
Georgianne Knight joins county ed board

By El Dorado County Office of Education | From Page: B1

 
Plane crash victim ID’d

By Cole Mayer | From Page: A1

Priest Mine open Labor Day weekend

By Dawn Hodson | From Page: B1

 
Marilyn Ferguson — a city jewel

By Wendy Schultz | From Page: A1 | Gallery

Heard over the back fence: Sand Fire benefit Friday

By Bob Billingsley | From Page: B1

 
Missing man found drowned

By Cole Mayer | From Page: A1

Sacto board OKs Mather’s 20-year plan

By Julie Samrick | From Page: A1

 
Maury Erickson of Atwood Insurance dies

By Dawn Hodson | From Page: A3

Tea Party meeting on Common Core

By Tea Party Patriots Of El Dorado Hills | From Page: A3

 
Job fair Aug. 22

By Health and Human Services Agency | From Page: A10

.

Opinion

Dave Pratt for District 2

By Mountain Democrat | From Page: A4

 
The Democratic-Chronicles: Democracy denied

By Gene Altshuler | From Page: A4

My turn: Course and program offerings at the El Dorado Center

By Special to the Democrat | From Page: A4

 
.

Letters

Attention EID ratepayers

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A5

 
You decide

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A5

High crimes and misdemeanors

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A5

 
Traffic troubles

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A5

Immigration

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A5

 
.

Sports

Outside with Charlie: Grab your tents

By Charlie Ferris | From Page: A6

 
Cougars’ hopes high for second consecutive winning season

By Mike Bush | From Page: A6 | Gallery

City harriers trade concrete for foothills

By Jerry Heinzer | From Page: A6 | Gallery

 
Smashing good times

By Mike Bush | From Page: A6 | Gallery

2014 El Dorado football roster

By Democrat Staff | From Page: A7

 
.

Prospecting

7 hours of music at Peace Festival

By News Release | From Page: B2

 
At a glance: Aug. 20, 2014

By Mimi Escabar | From Page: B2

 
Master gardener: Roll out the pollinator welcome mat

By Uc Cooperative | From Page: B3

Welcome Home El Dorado Slow Ride planned

Press Release | From Page: B4

 
.

Essentials

Crime Log: Aug. 1

By Cole Mayer | From Page: A2

 
Weather stats

By Michael Raffety | From Page: A2

.

Obituaries

James John Hutchinson

By Contributor | From Page: A2

 
Frank Bridges Jr.

By Contributor | From Page: A2

Darlene Knowles

By Contributor | From Page: A2

 
Amber Sakura (Azalove) Wheeler

By Contributor | From Page: A2

Louise Ann “Tyke” Cody

By Contributor | From Page: A2

 
.

Real Estate

.

Comics

Shoe

By Contributor | From Page: A8

 
Sudoku

By Contributor | From Page: A8

Rubes

By Contributor | From Page: A8

 
New York Times Crossword

By Contributor | From Page: A8

Long Story Short

By Contributor | From Page: A8

 
Flying McCoys

By Contributor | From Page: A8

Speed Bump

By Contributor | From Page: A8

 
Tundra

By Contributor | From Page: A8

Horoscope, Thursday, August 21, 2014

By Contributor | From Page: A8

 
Horoscope, Wednesday, August 20, 2014

By Contributor | From Page: A8

TV Listings

By Contributor | From Page: A8