It takes a lot of effort and investment to get oil and gas out of the ground, and that’s doubly true for shale. Producers have to drill deep vertical holes, hang a ninety degree turn, drill horizontally through a layer of hydrocarbon-laden shale, and then pump in a high-pressured slurry in order to extract their targets in commercially viable quantities. The U.S. only recently got this technique right, but shale wells have notoriously sharp output decline rates, requiring more efficient and innovative drilling to keep production up. There’s no rest for the weary, and as the EIA reports, there’s every indication that America’s shale industry is making progress on perfecting its drilling techniques:
The productivity of oil and natural gas wells is steadily increasing in many basins across the United States because of the increasing precision and efficiency of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing in oil and natural gas extraction. Many resource-producing basins are experiencing an increasing yield over time in either oil (Bakken, Eagle Ford, Niobrara) or natural gas (Marcellus, Haynesville).[Drilling Productivity Report (DPR)] data show that each drilling rig in the Eagle Ford Shale will contribute over 400 barrels of oil per day (bbl/d) more in April 2014 than it would have in the same formation in January 2007. At the same time, the DPR also shows that a Marcellus Shale well completed by a rig in April 2014 can be expected to yield over 6 million cubic feet of natural gas per day (Mcf/d) more than a well completed by that rig in that formation in 2007.
Skeptics of shale’s transformative power like to point out the fact that fracked wells have a significant drop off in production after the first few years of drilling. Our shale reserves certainly won’t last forever, but we will continue to get better at extracting every last drop of energy from them. As producers frack more efficiently, they’ll be able to get at oil and gas plays that were previously too expensive to profitably drill. More wells means more domestically-sourced oil and gas, and a more prosperous and secure United States.As our fracking technology and know-how continues to get more sophisticated, America’s lead over the rest of the world on shale continues to widen. No other country has been able to replicate or even imitate America’s commercial shale success—not China, with the world’s largest reserves of shale gas; not Poland, with its very real imperative to wean itself off of Russian gas; not even the UK, whose estimated shale reserves got a big boost recently. So while everyone else struggles to get the ball rolling on fracking, the U.S. continues to follow the successful formula that tapped this previously inaccessible resource in the first place: relentless innovation.