Arrows Newsletter: Spring 2011
Technological breakthroughs – many pioneered by independent oil and gas producers – have triggered a “shale gale” that provides opportunities for the United States not only to reduce its dependence on imported oil but also to become an exporter of fossil fuels.
The powerful combination that sparked this revolution – horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing – is now being tested in shale formations around the world.
“Shale gas changed the strategic direction of the industry,” wrote energy expert Daniel Yergin in the Wall Street Journal. “Larger companies have maintained their commitment to existing multibillion-dollar liquefied-natural-gas (LNG) projects around the world, but they now intend that gas for markets in Europe and Asia, not North America. At the same time, they have made new multibillion-dollar investments in shale-gas extraction in North America.”
Yergin is the author of “The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money and Power,” a Pulitzer Prize-winning history of the oil industry.
Apache, with its expertise in unconventional gas drilling and completions and an unmatched portfolio of assets in hydrocarbon basins in six nations, is in a strong position to lead this global move to gas, said Rob Spitzer, vice president of exploration of Apache’s Canada Region and leader of the company’s unconventional new ventures team, which is scouring geologic maps for opportunities.
“We’ve been engaged in shale development for some time, and we have quite strong expertise in this area,” he said. “The question will be identifying the places with the best economic chances of success.”
Apache is the operator of the proposed Kitimat LNG project on the northern coast of Canada’s British Columbia province. Kitimat will enable the company to supply Asian markets with gas from the Horn River, Montney and other emerging plays in British Columbia.
At press time, the Argentina Region was preparing for completion operations at Latin America’s first horizontal shale gas well in the Neuquén basin. The Argentine government has proposed pricing policies that would encourage additional investment in shale resources – similar to the “Gas Plus” program that enables Apache to sell its gas from tight gas reservoirs at prices above regulated levels.
A report released in April by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimated that shale gas could increase the world’s technically recoverable gas resource by 40 percent. Many countries in Europe, Asia and South America that currently import natural gas have significant shale gas potential. If commercially viable, these resources could upend longstanding commercial relationships between traditional gas exporters and their customers.
Recent events are converging with broader economic trends to increase worldwide demand for natural gas. Concern about greenhouse gas emissions is driving demand for gas – in LNG form – for electric generation in the booming economies in Asia.
The crisis at a nuclear power plant in Japan that was damaged by the March earthquake and tsunami has led some analysts to predict that some of the planned expansion in electric generating capacity in China, Japan, Korea and elsewhere will be fueled by imported LNG, not nuclear power.
In Australia, Apache is a foundation partner in the Chevron-operated Wheatstone LNG project, which will tap the world-class Julimar-Brunello fields for sale to markets in Japan and Korea.
“The destruction and loss of life in Japan was a tremendous tragedy, and our hearts go out to the Japanese people,” said Janine McArdle, Apache’s senior vice president of gas monetization and president of Kitimat LNG. “We were already aware of strong interest in the Kitimat project because of Canada’s political stability and relatively short sailing times to the North Asia markets.”
With a strong track record finding resources and developing them economically and in an environmentally responsible manner, Apache is well-positioned to benefit from an emerging global trend.
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