Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Man the Shale Gas Industry Hates

In the war of words over shale natural gas, his name is frequently invoked by environmental activists, and alternately cursed and ridiculed by shale proponents. But Arthur Berman insists he’s no enemy of the industry.
“I am absolutely 100 per cent in favour of shale plays succeeding,” said Mr. Berman, the mild-mannered Texas geologist whose skepticism about the economics of the booming U.S. shale-gas business has repeatedly landed him in controversy. “I’ve dedicated my entire professional life to this industry – why would I be sabotaging my own industry? It’s crazy.”
But to some of the biggest natural gas (NG-FT1.970.020.97%)producers in the United States, Mr. Berman is the kind of “friend” who keeps tattling to your mom. The 34-year industry veteran, who operates a modest one-man consulting and research business from his Texas home, has risen from obscurity to media prominence because he has spent the past five years raising doubts about the shale gas business – even in the face of an unprecedented boom that has seen production increase roughly five-fold, from a mere blip in U.S. supplies to now roughly one-quarter of total natural gas production.
Mr. Berman’s analyses of drilling and financial data tell him there’s less economically recoverable gas in the shale deposits than others have been saying, that production rates decline more rapidly than anticipated, and that natural gas prices would need to more than triple to make most shale production profitable.
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