The Economist: Fracking great - The promised gas revolution can do the environment more good than harm

THE story of America’s shale-gas revolution offers hope in hard times. The ground was laid in the late 1990s, when a now-fabled Texan oilman, George Mitchell, developed an affordable way to extract natural gas locked up in shale rock and other geological formations. It involves blasting them with water, sand and chemicals—a technique known as hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking”. America’s shale-gas industry has since drilled 20,000 wells, created hundreds of thousands of jobs, directly and indirectly, and provided lots of cheap gas. This is a huge advantage to American industry and a relief to those who fret about American energy security.

The revolution should continue, according to a report published this week by the International Energy Agency (IEA). At current production rates, America has over a century’s supply of gas, half of it stored in shale and other “unconventional” formations. It should also spread, to China, Australia, Argentina and Europe. Global gas production could increase by 50% between 2010 and 2035, with unconventional sources supplying two-thirds of the growth (see article).  MORE

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