The prevailing wisdom that sees explosive and long-term potential for U.S. shale may rest on some faulty and overly-optimistic assumptions, according to a new report.
Forecasts from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), along with those from its Paris-based counterpart, the International Energy Agency (IEA), are often cited as the gold standard for energy outlooks. Businesses and governments often refer to these forecasts for long-term investments and policy planning.
In that context, it is important to know if the figures are accurate, to the extent that anyone can accurately forecast precise figures decades into the future. A new report from the Post Carbon Institute asserts that the EIA’s reference case for production forecasts through 2050 “are extremely optimistic for the most part, and therefore highly unlikely to be realized.”
The U.S. has more than doubled oil production over the past decade, and at roughly 12.5 million barrels per day (mb/d), the U.S is the largest producer in the world. That is largely the result of a massive scaling-up of output in places like the Bakken, the Permian and the Eagle Ford. Conventional wisdom suggests the output will steadily rise for years to come.
It is worth reiterating that after an initial burst of production, shale wells decline rapidly, often 75 to 90 percent within just a few years. Growing output requires constant drilling. Also, the quality of shale reserves vary widely, with the “sweet spots” typically comprising only 20 percent or less of an overall shale play, J. David Hughes writes in the Post Carbon Institute report.
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