US oil and gas production has been given a new lease on life recently with the so-called “shale revolution” that has been drastically changing the orientation of global energy markets towards natural gas and equivalents.
The unprecedented amounts of liquid natural gas and equivalents that have been discovered over the past few years in the US have lead to confident forecasts from even the most authoritative and official sources such as the EIA about how the nation will soon move into the position of the world’s largest producer and exporter of energy.
Throughout this time, however, surprisingly little has been said about the prospects for the development of shale energy in other parts of the world, such as Russia and China, both of whom are much larger countries and well-known for their own stores of natural resources.
According to the energy consulting firm Wood Mackenzie Ltd., however, this looks to be changing in 2014 as some 400 shale-based wells will be drilled outside of the US, mostly in China and Russia.
This is likely to be consequential for a number of reasons, not the least of which being the US’s impending top-producer status. With over a thousand wells drilled and operating at this point, Asian and South American countries will have their work cut out for them if they want to catch up.
It is how they will catch up that will ultimately be the more significant factor. So far, the US “shale revolution” has favored small independent oil and gas producers, who managed to get in on the bonanza well ahead of the “super-major” companies who were presumably too busy booking next year’s reserves to notice.
But when countries like China, Russia, and Argentina, who sit on similar estimates of shale resources, go looking for the expertise necessary to tap into their own shale plays, they will not be turning to small US drillers. Instead, they will prefer the expertise, organization, and capabilities of the major integrated oil and gas firms such as Royal Dutch Shell ($RDS.A), Chevron (CVX) , and ExxonMobil (XOM) .
In China, for instance, where geological conditions are far more challenging than those that independent drillers have had to deal with in the US, the structural advantages of major companies will be a vital asset, and though it will take some time for other countries to catch up, there is likely to be an evening-out that could make US energy independence a moot point.