“Ten Reasons Why Fracking is (not) Doomed”

I ran across a really funny story on Real Clear Energy last Friday…

Once you get past all of the nonsense about fracking polluting groundwater and global warming hysteria, the article really gets “interesting.”

Ten Reasons Why Fracking is isn’t Doomed

1. Scientists have found that solar photovoltaic cells could be producing electricity at less 50 cents a watt by 2016, four years earlier than other projections.

The source of reason #1 is this blog post…

Brave new world as solar PV heads to 50c/watt

By Giles Parkinson on 20 July 2012

US Energy Secretary Stephen Chu earlier this year suggested that solar PV without subsidies will be cheaper than both coal and gas if it could get its costs down to around $1/watt by the end of the decade – an event that would trigger a total re-examination of the way electricity was produced in the world’s largest economy.


The report includes a few notable graphs. The first is the cost path for module – now estimated at around 75c/W and heading down to 50c/W at a rate of knots. GTM, and most others in the industry, believe it will get to the 50c/W mark by 2016 at the latest, most likely 2015



The chart implies that solar PV power plants currently cost ~$1.45/W and will soon fall to ~$0.50/W.  However, the chart only covers the CapEx for the solar modules. Even if the module costs are accurate, the CapEx for solar PV power plants currently ranges from $6-7/W ($6-7 million per MW), costing 6-7 times as much as and requiring 8 times as much land area per MW as a natural gas-fired plant.

Even if you factor in fuel,solar PV is still projected to cost 3 times as much per kWh as gas-fired electricity (combined cycle).

Even if the module costs did drop from $1.45 to $0.50 per Watt, that would only lower the full cost from $6-7 million per MW to $5-6 million per MW.  Land isn’t free and construction isn’t done by volunteers.

2. Germany is on the verge of producing more solar energy than wind energy, the first major industrialized country to reach that milestone. Germany wants to produce 35 percent of its electricity from renewables by 2020, only 8 years from now.

I didn’t think the second reason could be dumber than the first reason.  I was wrong…

3. Researchers at UCLA have created a solar-power-generating window. If all those glass box skyscrapers in southern California could be put to work generating electricity, it would probably power the whole state.

Words escape me… Even if mythical solar windows could power the entire State…

How much would it cost per MW of installed capacity?

How would California keep the lights on when “the Sun don’t shine”?

4. The British government has given the go-ahead for two huge offshore wind farms off the coast of Norfolk (the eastern coast). Together, they will have the capacity to produce over a gigawatt of power (roughly one nuclear power plant’s worth). Britain is the leader in offshore wind energy generation.

“Over a gigawatt of power”! That’s just 1,000 MW and, as can be seen in the previously posted levelized generation cost chart, offshore wind is even more expensive than solar PV.

5. With Japan’s nuclear energy plants being phased out because of public fury over the Fukushima disaster, the country is trying to move quickly to renewables. It is placing a big bet on offshore floating wind platforms.

Maybe I’m missing something here… But I don’t see how Japan’s lack of cheap energy sources dooms fracking.

6. Scientists have concluded that it is perfectly practical to provide 2/3s of US electricity from solar over the next decades. The main problem is not electricity generation or having enough land to put the cells on, it is the poor electrical grid of the US, which will have to be redone.

Reason number 6 seems to be that there is enough surface area on the planet for solar PV (I wonder if there’s enough Windex on the planet). Good to know that there’s enough space. Since natural gas-fired plants take up 1/8 as much space per MW, “space” isn’t likely to doom fracking before it dooms solar PV.

7. Algeria wants to go solar, aiming for 650 megawatts of solar energy by 2015 and a massive 22 gigawatts by 2030. The Desertec Foundation has big projects in Egypt and Morocco, and Algeria, an oil producer, has decided to join in.

It’s been a bit more than a year since I ran the numbers on Desertec; but I doubt they’ve improved. The ultimate goal is 100 GW installed capacity (100,000 MW) at an estimated total cost of $550 billion (~$5.5 million per MW)… Only about 6 times as expensive as coal and natural gas and 2-3 times as expensive as nuclear and wind.

1 TW (Terrawatt) = 1 billion kW (Kilowatts)

At 15 cents per kWh, Desertec will generate an annual gross revenue of $105 billion if it really delivers 700 TWh per year. That’s enough to cover the construction cost principle (pay out) in 35-46 years (30-40 years to build and 5-6 years of operation).

If Desertec really had to compete with nuclear, natural gas and coal, it could only charge 3 to 7 cents per kWh. This would push “pay out” up to about 70 years.

In either case, it’s still an example of multinational mental deficiency.

On top of all of that. These solar arrays would be built across North Africa and the Middle East. I always thought one of selling points for solar was that it would make us less energy-dependent on regions like North Africa and the Middle East…

8. Some 750,000 Australian homes have solar panels on the roof, heading toward 10% of the 8 million households in the sun-drenched country.

Not likely to doom fracking in the USA… We’re a bit less sun-drenched than Oz. And I doubt it will doom fracking in Oz either….

Australian LNG Exports to Triple
11 July 2012

National exports of liquefied natural gas (LNG) could more than triple to 63 million tonnes per annum by 2016-17 as Australia plays a greater role in satisfying global energy demand.

This is the forecast of the inaugural Bureau of Resources and Energy Economics (BREE) Gas Market Report released today by Minister for Resources and Energy, Martin Ferguson AM MP.




9. China is going to make a major push for solar energy after 2015, aiming for a mind-bogging (Sic) 50 gigawatts worth by 2020.

I think the author may have meant “mind-boggling,”  However, the author’s mind clearly is “bogged.” 50 GW would be less than 5% of China’s generation capacity.

China leads the world in the manufacturing and sales of solar PV cells, but they are in no hurry to build out solar PV infrastructure for themselves…

They manufacture solar cells to sell them to Germany.

China’s push to build 50 GW of solar PV won’t even doom fracking in China, much less in the USA…

July 4, 2012,

Can China Follow U.S. Shift from Coal to Gas?



Second, several years ago, I heard that teams of Chinese engineers were spending months in Oklahoma to learn about hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, as a method for liberating gas and oil from previously untappable shale deposits. More recently, reports showed that China — which was once considered gas poor — now has estimated volumes greater than those of the United States (which are, as you know, enormous). This week China signaled that it may indeed be gearing up for an ambitious gas push. An article in China Daily, “Will China embrace a shale gas boom?,” essentially answers its headline question with a resounding yes.



Reason number 10: Blame Israel…

10. The Egyptian gas pipeline through the Sinai to Jordan and Israel has been blown up 15 times since the Jan. 25 revolution. Egyptians are angry that the government of deposed dictator Hosni Mubarak had sold the gas at substantially below-market prices to Israel. Because of the interruptions, Jordan’s government is more eager than ever to move to solar and wind power. A sign of increased international interest in the nascent Jordanian renewables sector is that a Chinese company wants to invest $200 million in a solar project. Jordan has a goal of getting 10% of its electricity from renewables by 2020, though that may be an ambitious timeline. If its government were smart, it would go all out and double that goal, and try to meet it.

I have no doubt that China is eager to sell solar cells to another gullible customer… In the meantime Israel is open for business to natural gas drilling…

Noble Energy has been operating in the Mediterranean Sea, offshore Israel, since 1998. Our 47 percent interest in the Mari-B field, the first offshore natural gas production facility in Israel, is one of our core international assets. Production from Mari-B began in 2004 and sales volumes have increased as Israel’s natural gas infrastructure has developed. Additional pipeline construction and power plant conversion is contributing to the growing natural gas demand in Israel. Significant new exploration discoveries at Tamar and Dalit will help meet Israel’s energy needs and drive new uses for natural gas in the future.

In early 2010, the Company commenced drilling two additional development wells at Mari-B. Combined with additional compression work, these new wells will support near-term gas deliverability and serve as injection wells for storage in the future.

We have a 36 percent operated working interest at Tamar, with gross mean resources of 8.4 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) of natural gas. Tamar was the largest natural gas discovery in the world in 2009 and represents Noble Energy’s largest-ever exploration find. Initial expectations target first production from Tamar in 2012. Contracting for the sale of natural gas from Tamar is underway, and the Company has negotiated a number of multi-year letters of intent to deliver energy supply to customers. Project sanction at Tamar is expected in 2010.

In late 2009, we acquired additional 3D seismic over approximately 1,600 square miles in the region where we have identified a number of new prospects and leads on our significant acreage position offshore Israel and Cyprus. Based on the results of the seismic program, the Company has identified gross unrisked resource potential greater than 30 Tcf. Along with our partners, we are planning to spud Leviathan, a 16 Tcf gross prospect, in the fourth quarter 2010.

Noble Energy


All “Ten Reasons Why Fracking is Doomed” are abject nonsense.

The author of “Ten Reasons Why Fracking is Doomed” is Professor Juan Cole, a history professor at the University of Michigan.


2 Responses to ““Ten Reasons Why Fracking is (not) Doomed””

  1. David Middleton Says:

    Martin Lack says:
    August 3, 2012 at 4:26 am
    As a petroleum geologist…

    As a petroleum geologist (really more of an exploration geophysicist), I know that your comment was 100% nonsense.

    Rex Tillerson is not a geologist and that’s not exactly what he said…

    QUESTIONER: Hi, I’m David Fenton (ph).

    Mr. Tillerson, I want to talk about science and risk, and I agree with you that’s the way we must proceed. So, as you know, it’s a basic fact of physics that CO2 traps heat, and too much CO2 will mean it will get too hot, and we will face enormous risks as a result of this not only to our way of life, but to the world economy. It will be devastating: The seas will rise, the coastlines will be unstable for generations, the price of food will go crazy. This is what we face, and we all know it.

    Now — so my question for you is since we all know this knowledge, we’re a little in denial of it. You know, if we burn all these reserves you’ve talked about, you can kiss future generations good-bye. And maybe we’ll find a solution to take it out of the air. But, as you know, we don’t have one. So what are you going to do about this? We need your help to do something about this.

    TILLERSON: Well, let me — let me say that we have studied that issue and continue to study it as well. We are and have been long-time participants in the IPCC panels. We author many of the IPCC subcommittee papers, and we peer-review most of them. So we are very current on the science, our understanding of the science, and importantly — and this is where I’m going to take exception to something you said — the competency of the models to predict the future. We’ve been working with a very good team at MIT now for more than 20 years on this area of modeling the climate, which, since obviously it’s an area of great interest to you, you know and have to know the competencies of the models are not particularly good.

    Now you can plug in assumptions on many elements of the climate system that we cannot model — and you know what they all are. We cannot model aerosols; we cannot model clouds, which are big, big factors in how the CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere affect temperatures at surface level. The models we need — and we are putting a lot of money supporting people and continuing to work on these models, try and become more competent with the models. But our ability to predict, with any accuracy, what the future’s going to be is really pretty limited.

    So our approach is we do look at the range of the outcomes and try and understand the consequences of that, and clearly there’s going to be an impact. So I’m not disputing that increasing CO2 emissions in the atmosphere is going to have an impact. It’ll have a warming impact. The — how large it is is what is very hard for anyone to predict. And depending on how large it is, then projects how dire the consequences are.

    As we have looked at the most recent studies coming — and the IPCC reports, which we — I’ve seen the drafts; I can’t say too much because they’re not out yet. But when you predict things like sea level rise, you get numbers all over the map. If you take a — what I would call a reasonable scientific approach to that, we believe those consequences are manageable. They do require us to begin to exert — or spend more policy effort on adaptation. What do you want to do if we think the future has sea level rising four inches, six inches? Where are the impacted areas, and what do you want to do to adapt to that?

    And as human beings as a — as a — as a species, that’s why we’re all still here. We have spent our entire existence adapting, OK? So we will adapt to this. Changes to weather patterns that move crop production areas around — we’ll adapt to that. It’s an engineering problem, and it has engineering solutions. And so I don’t — the fear factor that people want to throw out there to say we just have to stop this, I do not accept.

    I do believe we have to — we have to be efficient and we have to manage it, but we also need to look at the other side of the engineering solution, which is how are we going to adapt to it. And there are solutions. It’s not a problem that we can’t solve.

    MURRAY: But let’s stick with that for just a second. I mean, Exxon Mobil, before you became CEO, was very aggressive and overt in challenging and mounting a public relations campaign against the sorts of things that Mr. Fenton (sp) just managed. You changed that when you came in. But I guess the question I’d ask — I was at my daughter’s graduation last weekend, and the graduation speaker said that global warming is the great challenge of your generation. Do you agree with that? Would you agree that it’s in — at least one of the top five challenges of the generation, or do you personally think that it’s been way overblown?

    TILLERSON: No, I think it’s — I think it’s a great challenge, but I think it’s a question back to priorities. And I think, as I just described based on our understanding of the system and the models and the science and that there are engineering solutions to adapting, that we think it’s solvable.

    And I think there are much more pressing priorities that we as a — as a human being race and society need to deal with. There are still hundreds of millions, billions of people living in abject poverty around the world. They need electricity. They need electricity they can count on, that they can afford. They need fuel to cook their food on that’s not animal dung. There are more people’s health being dramatically affected because they could — they don’t even have access to fossil fuels to burn. They’d love to burn fossil fuels because their quality of life would rise immeasurably, and their quality of health and the health of their children and their future would rise immeasurably. You’d save millions upon millions of lives by making fossil fuels more available to a lot of the part of the world that doesn’t have it, and do it in the most efficient ways, using the most efficient technologies we have today.

    And we continue, and have for many, many years, talked on our energy outlook about the importance of ongoing energy efficiency, continuing to carry out economic activity with a lower energy intensity. And we’ve been very good as a country at doing that. We’ve been very good globally at doing that. And there’s more potential in it.
    Rex W. Tillerson, Chairman and CEO, Exxon Mobil Corporation, June 27, 2012, Council on Foreign Relations

    Fracking is not “technically difficult.” Even if fracking was “highly energy-inefficient,” we don’t pay our bills in Joules or BTU… We pay our bills with money (AKA capital), not energy. It is not “financially… costly.” If it was, we wouldn’t frack wells. There is absolutely no evidence that fracking harms the environment in any way, shape, fashion or form.
    Fossil fuel supplies aren’t decreasing. They are actually growing as fast as, or faster than demand. Relative to GDP, fossil fuels are actually becoming less expensive.

    There no evidence what-so-ever that the burning of fossil fuels has had a significant impact on the Earth’s climate(s). As a geoscientist, I know for a fact that the observed climate changes over the last 200 years do not deviate at all from the well-established natural variations over the last 10,000 years.

    Martin Lack says:
    August 3, 2012 at 9:53 am
    You also sound very sure of yourself when you say fracking is not dangerous? Again, you almost certainly cannot say that with such apparent certainty. Have you seen Josh Fox’s documentary “Is the sky pink?”

    I’m sure that I know a lot more about geology, geophysics and the engineering principles involved in drilling and completing oil & gas wells (which would include fracking), than Josh Fox does. Although, since I am not an engineer by education or trade, I don’t know nearly as much about reservoir and drilling engineering as our engineers do. When I have an engineering question, I pop down the hall to visit with them. Although, it is good to know that if they can’t answer a question of mine, I can hop on over to the nearest video store and pick up a copy of Michael Moore’s Josh Fox’s latest crackhead conspiracy movie.

    I also wonder what you would make of my response to the appeal for a pragmatic acceptance of shale gas from Professor Peter Styles; on the Letters Page of the website of the Geological Society of London?

    Never heard of him… What does he know about drilling and production operations?

  2. David Middleton Says:

    Martin Lack says:
    August 3, 2012 at 9:35 am
    With the greatest of respect, David, there is mountains of evidence. You have just decided not to take any notice of it. As a geoscientist, you know nothing as a fact; and neither do I. We both deal in probabilities; and the probability that the consensus view of climate science is correct is much greater than the probability that it is not. This is not an argument from authority; it is what it appears to be; a statement of probability.

    Firstly, an apology for the nonsense remark… It was uncalled for.

    I don’t deal in probabilities based on consensuses or other people’s opinions. And it’s simply a fact that all of the internally consistent Northern Hemisphere climate reconstructions present a picture of non-anomalous warming since ca. 1600 AD.

    Martin Lack says: As Bill McKibbin recently pointed-out, it is highly likley that we have 5 times more fossil fuel reserves than the majority of climate scientists consider it would be safe to burn. This is not nonsense; this is the settled view of the scientific community. The last time atmospheric CO2 was 400ppm sea levels were tens of metres higher and average global temperatures several degrees higher.

    I don’t expect us to burn them all at one time… And, if I were to choose to make an appeal to authority argument, I’d pick an actual authority.

    And the last time CO2 levels were in the 380-400 ppmv range could have been as recently as 400-600 AD (Kouwenberg, 2004). Plant stomata data clearly demonstrate that CO2 levels have routinely risen to 330-360 ppmv during previous Holocene warming periods.

    While, I do think that ~90% of the rise above ~340 ppmv is anthropogenic, the radiative forcing difference between 340 and 400 ppmv is insignificant. I have no doubt at all that when we hit the end of the millennial-scale warming cycle, around the end of this century, much of that CO2 will be quickly sequestered in the oceans, with little notice from marine calcifers.

    When viewed over the entire Neogene, CO2 levels aren’t particularly anomalous.

    Martin Lack says: As I pointed out on my blog recently, the iconic Keeling Curve of CO2 data (that so many people insist on overlaying upon temperature data in such a way to suggest no correlation) is actually the near-vertical end of a J-curve when plotted over the last 1000 years with an origin at zero. In fact, it looks like a (British) hockey stick. This is yet another reason why we did not need BEST to tell us that the MBH98 Hockey Stick was probably signal (not noise)…

    We actually know for a fact that MBH98 was neither signal nor noise… It was a combination of flawed data interpretation (N. Cal. Bristlecone pines) and flawed methodology (the hockey stick blades are processing artifacts). Dr. Mann’s much- improved M08 avoided the pitfalls of MBH98 by substituting instrumental for proxy data (Mike’s Nature Trick).

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