Monday, September 23, 2013

Update On California's Monterey Shale

I track the Monterey Shale here.

I wrote this just two days ago:
In addition, it looks increasingly obvious to the casual observer that California shale will not be an easy nut to crack. Predictability of the shale seams are incredibly important in horizontal drilling; all the tectonic shifting have disrupted that linearity, and it will create havoc for drillers. There' s a reason it is called horizontal drilling: the drill bit goes horizontal. In the Monterey Shale, the drill bit is going to be all over the subsurface landscape trying to find the seam.
Compare that with today's article in The Wall Street Journal:
California's Monterey Shale formation is estimated to hold as much as two-thirds of the recoverable onshore shale-oil reserves in the U.S.'s lower 48 states, but there's a catch: It is proving very hard to get.
Formed by upheaval of the earth, the Monterey holds an estimated 15.4 billion barrels of recoverable shale oil, or as much as five times the amount in North Dakota's booming Bakken Field, according to 2011 estimates by the Department of Energy. The problem is, the same forces that helped stockpile the oil have tucked it into layers of rock seemingly as impenetrable as another limiting factor: California's famously rigid regulatory climate.
California has become one of the U.S.'s top oil-producing states over the past century, largely by tapping into the easier-to-get oil that has seeped out of the Monterey beneath places like Bakersfield and Los Angeles County. But with production in general decline since the 1980s, producers are trying a smorgasbord of techniques—called enhanced oil recovery in industry parlance—in an effort to tap into the mother lode.
So far, there have been no production breakthroughs.
Few techniques have garnered more scrutiny in California than hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, which entails injecting water, often mixed with chemicals, into a well to fracture rock formations and unlock trapped oil and natural gas. Widely used in North Dakota and other big fields, fracking is less common in California, where only 560 of 50,000 producing wells were fracked in 2012, according to the Western States Petroleum Association.
Fracking is more difficult to do in the Monterey because the formation is so jumbled, says Amy Myers Jaffe, executive director of energy and sustainability at the University of California, Davis. That makes it hard to find large amounts of shale to frack, industry officials say.
But it gets even better. I wrote this at the same link:
So, politically and geologically, the oil companies will find California an increasingly challenging environment. Regular readers saw that coming two or three years ago with random posts of oil activity in California. The proof in the pudding was the first article about Chevron moving its northern California employees to Houston, and then the more recent article (this week), Conoco, I believe, moving a significant number of employees also to Houston. 

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