Industry Article: Unconventional Resources and the Role of Technology

Shale gas developments: enabled by technology

Unconventional Resources and the Role of Technology
Publication: First Break
Publication Date: 05/01/2011

The generally accepted theory of the origins of oil and gas is that they are derived from organic materials that sank to the bottom of seas or lakes in conditions short of oxygen, as commonly found when such materials become buried by fine mud, which later hardens into shale. Burial under increasing thicknesses of mud and other sediments leads to an increase in pressure and temperature that converts the organic material to kerogen, the primary ingredient of hydrocarbons. Further increases in pressure and temperature led to conversion of the kerogen to oil and gas. Some of this oil and gas migrates into adjacent rocks, but much of it is likely to remain behind, trapped within the remaining kerogen and between the mineral matrix of the shale.

Most global gas production has, until now, been from sandstones and limestones with high permeability related to well-connected granular porosity or natural fractures that allow the easy flow of gas into a well. While many shales around the world contain large volumes of gas, they have until recently generally been considered uneconomic for commercial production due to their low permeability. Increases in global gas prices, coupled with the development of several new technologies, are making economic gas production from shale increasingly viable. Technologies to optimize exploration and development of shale gas are now well-proven in the US, and continuous improvements in efficiency are significantly reducing the cost of well construction. Several operators are now leveraging experience from the US to develop shale gas reservoirs in Europe and elsewhere.

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