It is now clear that enormous quantities of natural gas can be produced from organic rich shales found in many countries throughout the world. Because natural gas is both a flexible fuel and much cleaner than other fossil fuels, it has the potential to significantly transform energy use in many regions. Natural gas used for electrical power generation produces about half as much CO2 as coal.

Despite these advantages, there are also significant challenges associated natural gas development. These include minimizing the impact of shale gas development on the environment and communities. In the U.S. alone, thousands of wells will need to be drilled each year (along with construction of pipelines, compressor and distribution facilities, etc.). While a number of misleading claims have been made about the dangers associated with processes such as hydraulic fracturing, poor well construction and drilling have the potential to cause environmental damage which must be minimized.

Another challenge associated with shale gas development is to significantly improve the efficiency of drilling and production practice.  This will require greatly improved understanding of shale gas production from the nano-scale pore structure and flow mechanisms in the shale to the optimal way to stimulate production using horizontal drilling and multi-stage hydraulic fracturing.

January 30, 2012