Experts discuss energy future
Published: Wednesday, September 11, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, September 11, 2013 00:09
Experts reflected on America’s path to a shale revolution at the MSC SCONA sponsored event held Tuesday night in the MSC.
The event, “Serving the Pipeline: American Energy Independence,” included remarks from two speakers, Texas Railroad Commissioner David J. Porter and former professor for the Harold Vance Department of Petroleum Engineering at Texas A&M Stephen A. Holditch.
The first issue addressed was how the United States and the world are fairing regarding the amount of oil and natural gas left.
Holdritch said running out of natural gas is not the issue — the issue pertains to how to obtain the gas.
“In North America, there is 18,318 trillion cubic feet of natural gas supply,” Holdritch said. “That’s about 269 years of natural gas. We know where it is, we have the technology to get it, but it may not be economically available.”
New technology like hydraulic fracturing, or hydrofracturing, is the key to reaching this natural gas as well as oil supplies, Holdritch said. Holdritch said hydraulic fracturing is the process of fracturing rock by using a compressed liquid, clearing a path for a well to be drilled.
Despite the negative publicity of this method in the press, Holdritch said the claims that hydraulic fracturing harms the environment are not backed by credible evidence.
“Hydrofracturing uses recycled water, and the chemical used is 90 percent water, eight percent sand and the rest is chemicals that can be found in homes,” Holdritch said.
For Porter’s presentation, he said he drew on his experience as the Railroad Commission, which is the primary state regulator of oil and gas industry. Porter’s presentation emphasized steps Texas and the United States are taking to become more energy independent.
Porter said the energy and economic independence of Texas and the United States depends on hydrofracturing, and resources outside of the oil market.
“Energy independence is defined [by the media] to only include oil,” Porter said. “But if we look at it from such a narrow view, we are never going to be energy independent. It is impossible to overemphasize the importance of hydrofracturing. Without it, increase in production will not happen. The economic benefits will not exist. Energy independence will not exist.”
After their presentations, both speakers were asked questions by moderator John Pappas, interim associate director of the Texas A&M Energy Institute.
Speakers also answered questions regarding converting the main natural resource in America from oil to natural gas. To these questions, Holdritch said the switch would provide more long-term benefits, and the process of converting these natural resources is being enabled by current technology.
“Fifty percent of the oil we import is used in transportation,” Holdritch said. “We can replace this with natural gas in various forms, especially compressed gas.”
Porter said the conversion is a matter of adjusting current infrastructure, but the future is bright.
“It’s basically an infrastructure issue,” Porter said. “We are encouraging more government transportation fleets — school buses, garbage trucks — to switch to natural gas. But until it’s proven to be economically viable, conversion can’t take place.”
In his ending remarks, Holdritch said Texas and the United States will continue to work toward making America as energy secure as possible to keep America growing.