22 November 2010

Natural Gas -- The Eternal Flame

The world is swimming in hydrocarbons. One modest sign of the richness of shale gas deposits is this waterfall in western New York state, where a natural methane seep provides an eternal flame for hikers. US shale gas has become an amazing economic and geopolitical phenomenon, with money to be made across large swathes of the lower 48 states. Homeowners who heat their homes with gas have also had a lot of reasons to be happier about their energy bills over the past two years or so.

Waterfall photo credit: Jessica Ball, as lovely as she is tough.

Just one of the amazing "gold rush" shale gas deposits in the US will be highlighted in a television documentary on CNBC November 23 2010.
Oil vs Gas MMBTU

Natural gas is significantly cheaper than oil, per unit of heat energy, as seen in the graph above. Someone who could economically convert gas to liquids (GTL) might be able to take advantage of that price difference and make a lot of money.

Robert Rapier recently highlighted the Shell Oil GTL plant in Malaysia, and made reference to the larger Shell GTL plant to be completed in 2011 in Qatar. If the price of oil continues to be much higher than the price of gas -- in energy units -- such GTL conversion plants could well pay off.

Given the large amount of natural gas which is flared into the atmosphere every year, some intriguing new approaches to on-site conversion of GTL at gas wells -- including offshore wells, may offer a profitable income stream for smaller producers and individual wells.

It has been proven that natural gas is constantly being generated deep beneath the Earth's crust -- inside the hot mantle. We do not yet know how much of that gas penetrates into the crust to the point of economic extraction by humans, but it is likely to prove significant, in the opinion of Al Fin energy analysts.

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