Shale Production: Reserves and Costs of Production

Currently only four countries are producing from shale formations. Two types of product can be produced from shale oils, natural gas and light tight oil. Natural gas is an actual gas that we familiar with, heating our homes and generating electricity, Light tight oil a grade of oil that is trapped in shale formations, and is one of the higher quality and more flammable types of oil. The United States of America, Canada, China, and Argentina are the four current commercial producers of shale natural gas and oil.  The United States produces the vast majority of both, with Canada in second. New production from shale formations is coming online in Algeria, Australia, Colombia, Mexico and Russia.

The graph below illustrates relationship between prices and the size of reserves. Reserves actually refer to the amount of oil or natural gas that it is profitable or cost effective to recover at current prices. Shale natural gas and tight oil is significantly more expensive to recover than conventional oil. So as the price goes down the size of shale reserves actually decreases. At current prices, $45 – $50 the Canadian tar sands are no longer viable to produce. Oil prices to be $70 – $75 to make it worthwhile to produce. As well much of the shale gas production in the United States is no longer profitable to produce at current oil prices.



US State Department Keystone XL Pipeline report; fig. ES-8

U.S. Energy Information Administration calculations with data from DrillingInfo, Canadian National Energy Board, Cedigaz, Fact Global Energy China Monthly, Chevron, and Yacimientos Petroliferos Fiscales

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