In a talk titled “Shale Boom or Shale Bubble?” at the Broomfield Community Center last Thursday, Deborah Rogers directly challenged the myth of a decades long economic boom from fracking. Rogers is a financial consultant and the founder of the Energy Policy Forum, an organization that studies the policy and financial issues surrounding shale gas and renewable energy.
The talk, sponsored by Our Broomfield and Earthworks, was attended by a full house of about 100 people. Rogers stated that the fracking “boom” has been bolstered by Wall Street money, which began investing heavily in oil and gas shale following the collapse of mortgage-backed securities in 2008. She said Wall Street is playing the same game with shale as with the housing market – manipulating the ratings agencies to boost the commodity. Once a shale field is “proven,” Wall Street sells it at 5 to 10 times the original price. These “proven” fields are initially tapped in their “sweet spot”, and the first wells produce at high capacity that is assumed to permeate the entire field. The problem is that marginal areas further afield may produce at only 30% capacity of the initial wells. This problem is compounded by declines in production of 30-50% each year for gas shale, and even greater declines for oil shale. Rogers said the Niobrara fields, which underlie most of eastern Colorado, decline by 65% the first year. Wells in the Bakkan field, which span much of western North Dakota, are completely spent after 6 years.
In order the give the illusion of a boom, the oil and gas industry must constant grow production to give the illusion of increasing capacity. In spite of this, Rogers predicts that oil and gas production from fracking will peak around 2017 and the major ‘plays’ will decline to ‘stripper well’ status by 2024.