Oil, gas leaders in Pittsburgh talk of energy innovation
PITTSBURGH — Industry leaders say innovations that increase productivity and efficiency are driving oil and natural gas production, and continued investment in research and development is critical to meet increasing demand and take the lead in economic development across the country and the world.
On Wednesday, the Shale Insight 2017 conference, which bills itself as the “the nation’s leading forum for public-private dialogue on shale development,” officially kicked off at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center in Pittsburgh.
Among the presenters were West Virginia University professors Paul Ziemkiewicz and Shikha Sharma, who discussed their research on technology in the shale industry.
Ziemkiewicz, director of the West Virginia Water Research Institute and adjunct instructor at WVU, said the university is working with an industry partner to allow “real time, cradle-to-grave research” on a couple of working wells. He said his research is focused on ways to make production more efficient.
“There has been a lot of nonsense floating around about what we should worry about with water and waste when it comes to shale development,” Ziemkiewicz said. “After 500 days of observation, we found that less than 5 percent of the injected water returned to the surface. The rest absorbed to clays in the formation.”
Sharma, a geology professor, presented information about the biological reactions that occur in shale formations after introduction of hydraulic fracturing fluids.
“It is very important to understand these reactions because microbial activity within a natural gas reservoir can be detrimental or beneficial depending on the nature of the microbes present,” Sharma said.
The U.S. oil and gas industry — specifically the resources in Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania — will play a “critical role” in the world’s energy future, according to XTO Energy President Sara Ortwein, who also spoke at the conference Wednesday.
She added future global energy demand will be shaped by three major forces: population growth, economic development and energy efficiency.
“We project global economic output will more than double by the year 2040. We also expect the world’s population to grow, adding about 2 billion new customers for energy,” Ortwein said. “When we reflect on the progress that our industry has made over the last few decades, we have every reason to be optimistic. Back in the early days of my career in the early ’80s in East Texas, almost all of the wells we drilled were vertical. … Today, we can drill more than 8 miles in a horizontal direction and hit a target the size of a pitcher’s mound all because of human ingenuity and investments in research and development.”
Ortwein also discussed the need to invest in infrastructure to transport oil and gas to “more markets more quickly,” and said pipeline production delays are causing consumers to pay more for energy and electricity.
She also emphasized the importance of stability in taxation and regulation, which is something she said companies require to invest in long-term projects.
Ortwein said her favorite part of her job is watching new technology unfold in the industry, creating more supply, more efficiency and more jobs.
“I have the great pleasure of representing thousands of hardworking men and women who are working day in and day out to produce the energy that is fueling the economic growth throughout this country,” Ortwein said.
Giving a luncheon address at the conference Wednesday was Ohio Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor.
“Your ideas and insights have created economic development,” Taylor told the industry leaders present. “As I like to point out, economic development is business spending money, and business spending money means jobs.”
Taylor also noted the state of Ohio has provided $420 million in grants for site development for the proposed PTT Global Chemical plant in Belmont County, and praised the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency for its investigation of water wells.
“Since it started in the 1980s, reports from those tests have not revealed any groundwater quality problems caused by … fracking,” Taylor said. “The Ohio EPA regulatory framework has been recognized by its effectiveness by no less than the government of Chile, which has invited our regulators to advise their nation for its anticipated oil and gas exploration.”
The Shale Insight 2017 conference is hosted by the Ohio Oil and Gas Association, the West Virginia Oil and Natural Gas Association and the Marcellus Shale Coalition.