*UPDATE II* U.S. Shale is Undermining Russia’s Gas Monopoly
UPDATE II (10/2/2013; 6:00 pm ET): A new article from the Wall Street Journal highlights how American shale development is undermining Russia’s energy monopoly. According to the report:
“The U.S. is poised to overtake Russia as the world’s single largest producer of oil and natural gas combined this year, a startling shift that is reshaping energy markets and eroding the clout of traditional petroleum-rich nations.
“Shale-rock formations of oil and natural gas have fueled a comeback for the U.S. that was unimaginable a decade ago. Russia meanwhile has struggled to maintain its energy output and has yet to embrace the technologies such as hydraulic fracturing that have boosted U.S. reserves.”
As the article explains, in 2012 the United States produced more natural gas than Russia for the first time in 20 years. While Russia still produces more oil than the United States, the production gap is decreasing thanks to increased output from the Bakken and Eagle Ford shale plays. Bad news for the Kremlin; great news for American energy.
UPDATE (4/15/2013; 1:55 pm ET) This week, the Russian Academy of Sciences noted that crude oil exports from the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) – including Russia, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan — may drop 17 percent by 2040. The culprit? Increased supply from the United States, specifically from shale and other “tight” reservoirs. According to Bloomberg:
“CIS exports will decline to 293 million metric tons in 2040 from 355 million tons in 2010, according to the academy’s base scenario. Russian crude output will fall by as much as 50 million tons annually by 2020 in the report’s ‘shale breakthrough’ scenario, as high costs and the current tax system limit competitiveness on global energy markets.” (4/15/13)
Russian producers and President Vladimir Putin have historically opposed America’s shale development – and with nearly half of Russia’s budget coming from the production and export of oil and natural gas, it’s not surprising why. But as Moscow-based oil and gas analyst Ildar Davletshin noted, the country is beginning to be left behind due to its continued reliance on less sophisticated technology. Meanwhile, North America is only in the initial stages of a technologically-driven energy renaissance, which is turning the global energy mix on its head.
—Original post, Oct. 1, 2012—
The Associated Press has a must-read story from this weekend about how hydraulic fracturing is “shaking up world energy markets from Washington to Moscow to Beijing.” The premise is one we’ve covered here at EID before, but it simply cannot be overstated: developing natural gas from shale is not only an unquestionable economic and environmental winner for the United States, but also re-centering global energy markets away from Russia and the Middle East and toward the United States and North America.
From the AP:
The Kremlin is watching, European nations are rebelling, and some suspect Moscow is secretly bankrolling a campaign to derail the West’s strategic plans.
It’s not some Cold War movie; it’s about the U.S. boom in natural gas drilling, and the political implications are enormous.
Like falling dominoes, the drilling process called hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is shaking up world energy markets from Washington to Moscow to Beijing. Some predict what was once unthinkable: that the U.S. won’t need to import natural gas in the near future, and that Russia could be the big loser.
“This is where everything is being turned on its head,” said Fiona Hill, an expert on Russia at the Brookings Institution, a think tank in Washington. “Their days of dominating the European gas markets are gone.”
The U.S. presidential campaigns have already addressed the strategic potential.
A campaign position paper for Republican Mitt Romney said he “will pursue policies that work to decrease the reliance of European nations on Russian sources of energy.”
In early September, President Barack Obama said the U.S. could “develop a hundred-year supply of natural gas that’s right beneath our feet,” which would “cut our oil imports in half by 2020 and support more than 600,000 new jobs in natural gas alone.”
The story also includes some he-said-she-said allegations about the Russians possibly funding environmental efforts in Europe to ban or restrict hydraulic fracturing. It’s a plausible theory, given how continued shale development means more competition for Russian gas giant Gazprom, and the fact that “Gazprom owns media companies throughout Russia and Europe that have run stories examining the environmental risks of [hydraulic fracturing].” But it’s also a theory for which little tangible proof currently exists.
In any event, the AP notes: “Regulators contend that overall, water and air pollution problems are rare,” something most of us interested in the facts already knew (see this list of statements from regulators for more proof). And it was none other than Lisa Jackson, current Administrator of the U.S. EPA, who recently said: “In no case have we made a definitive determination that [hydraulic fracturing] has caused chemicals to enter groundwater.”
In sum, hydraulic fracturing is a safe and tightly regulated process that is creating jobs and undermining Russia’s control over European energy markets, all while helping to deliver a clean and affordable source of energy to American consumers.