Tuesday, July 07, 2015

King Coal Was a Merry Ole Soul, But No Longer: Natural Gas Now Is the #1 U.S. Electricity Generator

The June 24th Energy Information Agency (EIA) Electricity Monthly Update shows that in April Natural Gas was the number one U.S. source of electricity generated as measured by megawatts of output.  It moved ahead of coals in the standings by generating 31.46% of all electricity generated.

The technological revolution in the oil and gas industry has notched up another new first.  

Over the last few years, the U.S. exported more petroleum products than it imported for the first time in 52 years.  Then it became the world's largest petroleum exporter and finally the world's largest oil producer.

The technological revolution.  

Often the amazing technological revolution that has transformed both America's and the world's energy picture is referred to as the Shale Gas Revolution.  This is increasingly a misnomer.  The same innovations have been applied to the Mississippian Limestone formation here in Kansas and the Permian Basin in Texas, to mention but two examples.  The former has been producing oil since 1915, but the revolution has revitalized recovery from a field thought to be largely played out.  The Permian Basis was first developed in the 1930s.  The new techniques are recovering oil as deep as 10,000 feet from strata of various rock types.  The revolution combines computer technology that I can only describe as three dimensional GPS with engineering that allows horizontal drilling a mile or more sideways miles beneath the surface of the earth and with hydraulic fracturing, a technique first used here in Kansas 67 years ago.  Yet few say "high tech" when they talk about about oil and gas.

This could only have happened here in the U.S. where individuals own the mineral rights, where the rule of law still generally prevails, where independent petroleum companies flourish, and where immigration was once encouraged.

A sobering thought:  

If the various immigration laws of the last ninety five years had prevailed before 1920, the revolution's father, George Mitchell, would have been born in bankrupt Greece not Galveston and would not have studied geology at Texas A&M. The Economist put it well: "Few businesspeople have done as much to change the world as George Mitchell.

What might not have been!

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