Noise v Signal in Shale

Long time readers know I’m a big fan of Nasim Nicholas Taleb. He became famous for his Black Swan  theory, which highlighted the very high impact of the very rare , although I was hooked from his first book, Fooled by Randomness: The Hidden Role of Chance in Life and the Markets. 

Shale, as I’ve pointed out in the past, shows that very rare Black Swan events can also have a very high positive impact. Shale is like winning the lottery in that regard: statistically just as rare and equally life-changing. This excerpt from a forthcoming work made me  think of some of the opponents of shale:

The Institutionalization Of Neuroticism

Imagine someone of the type we call neurotic in common parlance. He is wiry, looks contorted, and speaks with an uneven voice. His necks moves around when he tries to express himself. When he has a small pimple his first reaction is to assume that it is cancerous, that the cancer is of the lethal type, and that it has already spread. His hypochondria is not just in the medical department: he incurs a small setback in business and reacts as if bankruptcy were both near and certain. In the office, he is tuned to every single possible detail, systematically transforming every molehill into a mountain. The last thing you want in life is to be in the same car with him when stuck in traffic on your way to an important appointment. The expression overreact was designed with him in mind: he does not have reactions, just overreactions.

Continue reading Noise v Signal in Shale

Golden Rules for the Golden Age of Gas

Unlike some governments,  the International Energy Agency actually keeps it words on schedules, and their Golden Rules for the Golden Age of Gas is out today. Nice to see over a dozen No Hot Air readers and friends listed on the Acknowledgements page BTW.

The BBC already has Tony Bosworth of the Friends of the Earth moaning, which tells you a lot. Better to read the FT for some expert opinion.

Seriously though, this report should be the nail in the coffin of “controversial” shale gas. It’s that important. What this report shows is what we’ve known all along but which the press,world-wide I might add, has consistently ignored:  Shale gas can be safely extracted. There is no controversy over earthquakes, pollution, flaming taps, blowouts, desertification and precious little even about visual impact that cannot be solved.  Shale gas is a non controversy from now on. Fears are one thing, but the reality is they can, and should, be addressed.

Tony B is an honest man, unlike some of the charlatans trying to stir things up over non-issues. But the problem has been that Greens have backed themselves into a corner: Catastrophe or Bust. The reality is more nuanced. Shale gas isnt’ perfect.  It does not solve 2050 time frames that the FOE are obsessed with.  But combined with efficiency and replacing oil in freight transportation (something the FOE don’t even know about),  replacing coal with gas solves 2020 to 2030 carbon targests. It also solves the short term in ways that are not only affordable but actually postive  to the economy. Strange how both the Friends of the Earth and David Cameron agree there is no alternative:)

More later on this, as you can see from the right of your page, I have somwhere to go.

More shale benefits for the poor

A key concern of shale deniers is the role of so-called secret chemicals causing cancer and general mayhem in the rush toward unsustainable growth.

Secret chemicals went out not long after Dick Cheney did, but that isn’t an exciting narrative, so everyone boos and hisses Dick C (as I do in other places), when he makes his appearance in Gasland. Rather sad how in 2012 US progressives seem more eager to vent on old, and irrelevant, enemies than to put efforts in important issues like re-electing the President. One of the most common additives is not chemical at all, but guar gum, already present in  ice-cream or toothpaste at far higher concentrations than those allegedly poisoning the water from two miles underground.

Opposition to guar gum additives is another case of rich shale opponents beating up on poor people.

In India’s northern desert states, farmers are scrambling to harvest as much as they can of a bean with the power to lift them out of poverty. In the United States, the multi-billion dollar shale energy industry is banking on their success.

U.S. companies drilling for oil and gas in shale formations have developed a voracious appetite for the powder-like gum made from the seeds of guar, or cluster bean, and the boom in their business has created a bonanza for thousands of small-scale farmers in India who produce 80 percent of the world’s beans.

“Guar has changed my life,” said Shivlal, a guar farmer who made 300,000 rupees ($5,400) – five times more than his average seasonal income – from selling the beans he planted on five acres (two hectares) of sandy soil in Rajasthan state.

Continue reading More shale benefits for the poor

Energy 2020: North America, the New Middle East?

One thing seriously missing in the UK energy debate is some global perspective. Whether Ed Davey, or Deutsche Bank or FOE think the UK has shale resources is entirely irrelevant. The UK is a lovely place, and I have had chances to live in multiple other locations, US, France, Canada, Japan etc etc, but chose to raise my family here. But, let’s get real: The UK is a geological backwater and far less economically relevant to the rest of the planet than some like to make out. What is happening in the rest of the world is important. What National Grid’s or the DECC UK Electricity Market Review view of world energy pricing may or may not be wrong but is certain to be of no relevance to anyone apart themselves. 

Global perspective aplenty in the report from Citi a couple of months ago  Energy 2020: North America, the New Middle East. I haven’t been able to find a copy publicly available until now, but I’ll put it into the ever growing library.

The very title shows how quickly the shale energy revolution has changed the world. In 2009, a report like this would have seemed out there with Area 51 conspiracy, by 2010 it would have been merely far fetched and and even last year very unlikely. But, in 2012 as DECC continually push peak oil and high prices as inevitable, this is cutting edge analysis by one of the world’s leading banks, headed by Ed Morse who has a track record on energy far more eminent than DECC’s favourites Ofgem’s Pøyry report or the 2010 (!) report by OIES  on shale Pøyry was based on yet which still underpins today’s UK views on shale. The UK insist on looking back to find excuses not to  act in the future.This report, based on what is happening today, not 2009 as in the OIES report, is about an exciting and far less fearful future. Ignore this at your peril. I’ve been getting a lot of what I call “civilian” UK readers lately, who are probably unfamiliar with the changes in places like the Bakken and Eagle Ford oil plays in the US, that the global hard core energy pro readers who have been here all along need no introduction to. But even energy pros know that today’s mainstream was a men in white coats scenario only two years ago.  

Surging supply growth could transform North America into the new Middle East by 2020, driven by growth in shale oil and gas, deepwater and oil sands resources 

Abundant domestic natural gas triggers an industrial revolution in energy intensive industries, as well as shifts to gas-fired power generation, natural gas vehicles and LNG exports 

Continue reading Energy 2020: North America, the New Middle East?

Rich v Poor, White v Black in the shale debate

I’ve hinted at this before, but since it’s sensitive and I’m not South African, I’ve held back. But in South Africa, it’s becoming as clear as it has been to me from the start:

The debate about hydraulic fracturing had turned racial as wealthy whites wanted to maintain their pristine environment in the Karoo and the region’s mostly poor black community lived in the hope of development and jobs from the process, the Karoo Shale Gas Community Forum said this week.

Addressing the Cape Town Press Club where activists from the forum debated, spokesman Chris Nissen agreed with community activist Ralph Stander, who said it seemed that in general, whites wanted to prevent drilling for shale gas but most poor black people backed it.

Continue reading Rich v Poor, White v Black in the shale debate

Good shale gas news is easy to miss

One thing I’ve noted at energy conferences is how often delegates pay good money and don’t even show up.  We’re all busy people, but I’m not yet that busy that I can throw a $3K conference fee away.

What is also annoying is how speakers drop in for a presentation, say something contradicted by everyone else that day and leave straight afterwards. For example, the utterly mad presentation by David Kennedy of the Committee on Climate Change left people staggered, but he was too busy to take more than five minutes of questions. More on that another time.

But Isn’t a conference about exchanging information and seeking new ideas and opportunities? Not it would appear if you are so self-important and busy that you don’t have time to learn anything new: They already know everything. Don’t let other people’s ideas or most especially, facts, get in the way. The reality is that within their comfort zone, they can all agree with one another and stay, well, comfortable, both intellectually and financially.

Three examples this week at the SMI Shale Environment Summit: WWF’s delegate didn’t even make it to lunch on day one. Ofgem were too busy to attend day two, and  Friends of the Earth bounced in and out and easily missed a third of it. Remember this next time the WWF, FOE and Alistair Buchanan push a collection tin under your nose, but this is truly about the  poverty of ideas. They know everything!  Why get bogged down with those dirty little facts.This is some of what they missed:

Continue reading Good shale gas news is easy to miss

Official UK Shale gas estimates higher than thought.

A good a person as any to give David Cameron, Ed Davey and Vince Cable an educated opinion on UK shale gas reserves before Davey decided to tell Parliament that experts they had spoken to thought that UK shale resources weren’t important enough to change government policy would be the British Geological Survey. After all, they are government geologists, and since shale resources are held by the Crown, have an interest in how big they are.

At the SMI Environmental Shale Summit today, Tony Grayling, Head of Climate Change and Communities at The Environment Agency, volunteered that there was debate about the size of UK shale gas resources. He mentioned the older estimate much loved by Greens, that it would appear the UK had only 150 BCM of shale, not very impressive since the UK uses 90 BCM a year. I think a government so desperate to save money by firing civil servants, teachers, policemen and nurses because “there is no alternative”, shouldn’t be so sniffy about even the lower figure which is worth £30 billion pounds.

We already know the BGS has said the original figures were being updated based on new information from the UK and the US, and had state there was “much more gas under Blackpool than we thought” last January. The report may still be six months away, but Tony G said today that based on his conversations with the BGS, the revised figure was going to be close to a resource of 6 trillion cubic metres. 

Which is interesting in that is slightly higher than the Cuadrilla estimate of 200 TCF or 5.6 trillion CM.

Continue reading Official UK Shale gas estimates higher than thought.

Good shale news buried in Balcombe

If bad news travels far and fast in shale, the results of a study by Balcombe Parish Council on shale oil in Balcombe, West Sussex prove how when the news doesn’t fit the catastrophist narrative, simply ignore it.

Let’s go back to the infamous Battle of Balcombe back in January:

After earthquakes in Lancashire and tales of poisoned water and flaming taps in the US, “fracking” for gas or oil in the English home counties was never likely to be easy. And so it proved when oil executives faced the fury of a village hall full of West Sussex residents in a clash over a controversial technology that energy companies believe could open up major reserves of energy from underground rocks.

Miller and his two PR minders, all dressed in black, gritted their teeth as the film spoke of “red nasty water oozing out of the hill”, “radium in waste products”, “methane in drinking water” and how “our heaven has turned into our hell”.

Continue reading Good shale news buried in Balcombe

Bad news travels far

One of the problems of the Internet is that although we have access to information from all over the world, without face to face actual experience we lose much of the context we need to process it.

Anti-fracking groups often exist in the virtual realm alone. While we see anti groups barely able to hit double figures in physical demonstrations against shale, they get thousands in the virtual realm coming out of nowhere to talk about cancer causing Halliburton chemicals contained in billion (or millions) or gallons (or is it litres) of precious water (in Ireland for example!) causing earthquakes in hundreds of wells per square mile. This enables them to magnify their opposition to make it seem far higher than it actually is. Add Frack-Off’s derisory handful of demonstrators in the UK to the few hundred demonstrators they get in France to the couple of thousand that the former Bulgarian Communist Party can muster and the entire 74,000 Facebook fans of Gasland worldwide and the Guardian can make this sound like a new Occupy movement. The reality is that the movement is made up of  trust fund babies of the one percent or their parents who chucked in raping the world on Wall Street  or the City to become organic goatherds (with a little to fall back on).

From North Central PA,  European Greens tell the locals how bad shale is for them. This is just what people in places like Bradford County need: Trust fund babies preaching simplicity to poor people.

Continue reading Bad news travels far

Cuadrilla not invited to Downing Street Briefing

Further to the Independent on Sunday report that stated

The Government has rejected shale gas technology as a solution to Britain’s energy crisis, conceding it will do little to cut bills or keep the lights on.

Supporters of the fracking technology – which blasts water, sand and chemicals at extreme pressures to release gas trapped deep in rock – argue it could be the single greatest factor in transforming Britain’s energy market, reducing our reliance on foreign imports and dramatically reducing costs.

But The Independent on Sunday has learned that industry experts made clear at a meeting attended by senior ministers, including David Cameron and Ed Davey, the Lib Dem energy secretary, that the UK’s reserves were smaller than first thought and could be uneconomical to extract.

It seems that those journalistic sleuths at the IoS learned the above via Hansard:

Graham Stringer: Will not the biggest impact on reducing domestic energy bills be achieved by bringing shale gas online as quickly as possible?

Mr Davey: I do not think so. We had a seminar at No. 10 recently, which the Prime Minister participated in, along with myself and the Business Secretary. We heard from experts in the shale gas industry who had been working in America and looking at the major opportunities in places such as Ukraine and China. They were clear that it would take some time for shale gas to be exploited in the UK. They were also clear that we needed strong regulation to proceed and that the shale gas reserves in this country are not quite as large as some people have been speculating.

We’re going to ask who was at this meeting. But more importantly, who wasn’t. This from Mark Miller of Cuadrilla Resources:

No, we were not invited. Nor were we consulted about potential shale gas production in the future. I was surprised to see negative statements from people who have never seen our core data or open hole log data. They may consider getting their facts in line next time since this is such an important issue to the country.

Apart from curiousity, whatever happened to common British courtesy?