Natural gas – abundant fuel

Did you know that the US has the largest natural gas reserves in the world? That tapping these reserves could free us from our reliance on foreign oil? That this could lead us back to prosperity? Probably not because this story has been largely ignored by the state-run media and the government since it doesn’t quite fit the “green” mantra. After all, though cleaner than other fuels, natural gas is still carbon based – bad, bad…

I have read several articles about this – mostly in business journals. This article from the American Enterprise Institute describes “The Quiet Energy Revolution.”

Two monumental shifts in the world of energy are underway right now: one technological, the other financial. They will change the way we power our lives (especially our cars), provide a real measure of energy security, and help curb greenhouse gas emissions. Neither shift has anything to do with the turn to a green renewable energy economy promised by President Obama. Physics ensures that will never happen, no matter how much wishful thinking (and government subsidy) is applied. Sorry, greens, carbon-based energy will continue to dominate our energy future, not windmills or solar panels.

The technological breakthrough happened only in the last 3 years but has already had a profound effect.

The first profound shift was made possible by a little-noticed technological breakthrough in the last three years that has changed the way we extract natural gas. Engineers now make use of two important innovations. One is horizontal, or directional, drilling, which permits wells to move laterally beneath the surface instead of going straight down. This technology minimizes the number of holes that have to be drilled, leaving a smaller surface footprint and accessing a larger area. The other technology is hydraulic fracturing, used to extract gas trapped in porous shale rock. In this process, also known as fracking, water and chemicals are pumped at tremendous pressure into shale rock formations to push gas into pockets for easier recovery.

By marrying and perfecting the two processes into a technology called horizontal fracking, engineering has virtually created, from nothing, new natural gas resources, previously regarded as inaccessibly locked in useless shale deposits. Suddenly, the mammoth shale formations in Texas, Pennsylvania, Ohio, New York, North Dakota, and elsewhere have the potential to produce abundant amounts of gas for decades to come.

The transportation of natural gas, however, is a risky business and up until recently severely limited distribution possibilities. New liquefying technologies, while slower in development, should solve these issues.

The implications are profound and largely positive. The new mobility of LNG will bring a sorely needed measure of market stability after the past five years of unpredictability in price and supply.

On the other hand, some observers fear that creating a global marketplace will spur the establishment of a nefarious natural gas cartel similar to oil’s OPEC. Such worries, however, overstate a potential cartel’s capacity to manipulate a diversified, global market, particularly one in which nations like Australia, Canada, and the United States will be heavyweights. Indeed, one truly positive benefit is that the emergence of a market for LNG will severely limit Russia’s ability to use its significant gas resources as a political and economic weapon, as Moscow has done in recent years with its European neighbors.

Vehicles have been converted to use both propane and natural gas and the process is inexpensive and simple. Developing the necessary infrastructure to accommodate a huge fleet of vehicles could be a daunting task.

The chief obstacle to developing a natural gas infrastructure capable of supplying service stations and highway rest stops is regulatory. If that is removed—and here we do need government action—we could expect to see trucks, buses, and cars running on natural gas in a relatively short period of time. The reduction in greenhouse gas emissions would be considerable.

We really need to promote this for the future of the country.

Read the whole thing…

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One Response to “Natural gas – abundant fuel”

  1. […] world (more here). Our natural gas reserves alone are enough for decades of energy independence (more here). Yet we import about 60% of our oil from foreign sources (more […]

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