How useful is fracking anyway? Study explores return of investment

Jun 17, 2013

The value of a fuel's long-term usefulness and viability is judged through its energy return on investment; the comparison between the eventual fuel and the energy invested to create it. The energy return on investment (EROI) study published in the Journal of Industrial Ecology finds that shale gas has a return value which is close to coal.

In the United States, gas is mined from horizontal, hydraulically fractured wells in the of Pennsylvania. The study compares the total input energy with the energy expected to be made available to end users.

The analysis indicates that the EROI ratio of a typical well is likely between 64:1 and 112:1, with a mean of approximately 85:1. This range assumes an estimated ultimate recovery (EUR) of 3.0 billion cubic feet per well. This is similar to the EUR of coal, which falls between 50:1 and 85:1.

"Our analysis indicates that gas can be extracted from shale efficiently, from an energy perspective. The on (energy) investment ratio (EROI) does seem to be at least as favorable as coal," said lead author Mike Aucott. "However, a comparison with coal is difficult. There appear to be large amounts of coal still available. Estimates of the amount of gas available from the shale plays vary widely. It is not clear yet whether there is anywhere near enough to rival coal over the long haul."

"There are concerns about and other environmental impacts associated with production", concluded Aucott. "With the assumption that these can be managed, and that production quantities remain consistent with initial production data, the favorable EROI suggests that shale gas will be a viable energy source for quite some time."

Explore further: Dead floppy drive: Kenya recycles global e-waste

More information: Michael L. Aucott and Jacqueline M. Melillo, A Preliminary Energy Return on Investment Analysis of Natural Gas from the Marcellus Shale, Journal of Industrial Ecology, Wiley, DOI: 10.1111/jiec.12040

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

UK 'likely' to have 102 trln cubic feet of shale gas

Jun 03, 2013

British exploration company IGas Energy on Monday said it believed it was sitting on a far bigger amount of shale gas than thought, ahead of controversial drilling work to begin this year in northwest England.

First risk assessment of shale gas fracking to biodiversity

Jun 17, 2013

Fracking, the controversial method of mining shale gas, is widespread across Pennsylvania, covering up to 280,000 km² of the Appalachian Basin. New research in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences explores the th ...

Recommended for you

Dead floppy drive: Kenya recycles global e-waste

10 hours ago

In an industrial area outside Kenya's capital city, workers in hard hats and white masks take shiny new power drills to computer parts. This assembly line is not assembling, though. It is dismantling some ...

New paper calls for more carbon capture and storage research

15 hours ago

Federal efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions must involve increased investment in research and development of carbon capture and storage technologies, according to a new paper published by the University of Wyoming's ...

Coal gas boom in China holds climate change risks

20 hours ago

Deep in the hilly grasslands of remote Inner Mongolia, twin smoke stacks rise more than 200 feet into the sky, their steam and sulfur billowing over herds of sheep and cattle. Both day and night, the rumble ...

User comments : 0