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Ugly Natty Math

posted Jan 16, 2012, 10:13 PM by Jeff Davies
Haven't seen the research but no reason to doubt it...


The capital gap

Research by energy economist Peter Tertzakian shows just how economically strained natural gas exploration and development has become in the past few years, as the boom in high-tech shale-gas drilling has both massively swelled North American production rates and greatly increased costs.

He noted that shale wells not only cost “three to four times” as much to develop as conventional gas wells, their rate of depletion – the amount production declines over time, a natural phenomenon with all wells – is much higher. As a result, the average annual depletion rate across the industry has risen from about 23 per cent five years ago to more than 32 per cent now.

That, combined with the 20-per-cent surge in North American gas production in the past five years, (which makes for more and more depletions to replace each year), has meant it now costs the industry about $22-billion each quarter just to replace the annual depletions and maintain current volume levels. Yet those producers are seeing only about $12-billion a quarter in cash flow, he said.

“The resulting capital gap is now on the order of $10-billion a quarter, or a phenomenal $40-billion a year,” he said.
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