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All shale gas, all the time

May 20, 2013
KEYWORDS shale gas
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Not that many years ago, this editor worked in Houston on a magazine about technologies used in exploration and upstream production in the oil and gas industry. One of our sister publications, a very fine business magazine aimed at investors in North American oil and gas fields, was well worth the read for any student of the space. After awhile, however, it was remarked that it would be perfectly justified to change that publication’s name to “All shale gas, all the time.”

The same might be said about this edition of Global Processing digital magazine.

The difference is, in that previous experience, the impact that the opening up of North America’s shale gas fields was having was primarily only apparent in the U.S. oil & gas sector — both the abundance of gas suddenly available and the extremely low prices that were near-crippling to those companies trying to be first to market.
A few years down the road things are very different. Well, extremely low prices are still a curse to producers. But all the consequences of these shale-gas-field discoveries, in terms of their eventual impact in the chemical and petrochemical industries, are now coming to pass.

It’s reported that fully 28 new petrochemical production facilities are on the drawing board (or rather the design interface), with initial engineering pegged for completion in 2014. Dow Chemical Co., in particular, has reengineered itself through a series of divestitures and acquisitions, to take best advantage.

Moreover, as you will see as you peruse this month’s Global Processing, the word on shale gas is no longer confined to boardrooms in Houston and Denver. It’s rocking the LNG boat in Qatar, changing the investment perspective in Nigeria and forcing Asia’s biggest refiner, Sinopec Corp., to reduce petroleum production costs and optimize its product portfolio.

What’s particularly fascinating about the whole thing is that while there is a huge technology story here, starting with fracturing and horizontal drilling, there’s ever so much more to it than that. As press coverage in recent months has made clear, it is for political reasons and by means of law relating to land ownership and use that North America has gotten out of the box quickest when it comes to shale gas.

First the Iron Curtain falls, then Al Gore discovers the Internet, the Japanese economy struggles for more than a decade and now this. So many unexpected stories.

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