Monday, September 14, 2009

Burgh Energy Report

Three things are affecting the economic impact of the Marcellus Shale play. Short term, domestic political squabbles pit established coal interests against the allegedly greener gas reserves. Buying votes in the US Senate for the so-called "climate-change bill" might kill any grand initiative proposing to switch from coal fueled electricity to natural gas. Ironically, key states such as Ohio and West Virginia might benefit dramatically from a growing natural gas industry given their proximity to the Marcellus.

One big concern about extracting this gas is all the wastewater created. Interestingly, a solution may be in the offing:

Meanwhile, a Canadian firm, Wescorp Energy, has developed a technology called H2OMaxx, which uses microscopic gas bubbles to separate residual oil from water. The company reports that the technology can also be used to remove petroleum from hydraulic fracturing fluids, which are used to break up rock surrounding oil and gas deposits.

The system also reduces the need for expensive “well workovers,” because less residual petroleum is pumped back into disposal wells, according to Dave Lemoine, Wescorp’s vice president for business development. “It’s like removing grease from water before pouring it down the kitchen sink,” he said.

Mr. Lemoine sees particular promise for Wescorp’s aeration technology in the gas-rich Marcellus Shale, which underlies large portions of Pennsylvania, West Virginia and New York.

“The difficult process for permitting of disposal wells combined with the huge volumes of water trapped in the Marcellus gives us a competitive advantage there,” Mr. Lemoine said. “Our system is portable, has a smaller footprint and removes more hydrocarbons.

Not to be left out, Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering landed a $1 million grant from the US Department of Energy to figure out how best to deal with the water problem. Forgive the pun, but development on a massive scale would already seem to be in the pipeline.

Canada's recession is over and the country will lead all G-7 peers in economic growth next year, paced by Alberta's strong energy sector, said Benjamin Tal, senior economist with CIBC World Markets Inc. ...

... "Nobody will be able to convince me that China is dead. Nobody will be able to convince me that India is dead. This is just the beginning, not the end, of China, and the emerging markets rising," said Tal. "And with China and the emerging markets rising and to an extent blessing the western world in terms of the engine of global economic growth, you will see commodity prices rising. Maybe not this year. Maybe even not next year. But over the next five years you will see oil prices and commodity prices remaining elevated. That's very good news for Western Canada."

He predicted natural gas prices will also rise in the next two years. If commodity prices continue to gain in the coming years, Tal said he sees Alberta enjoying another wave of growth.

"I'm not talking about double-digit growth. I'm not talking about the situation like two years ago when you guys basically were doubling the value of your real estate during the course of breakfast," he said. "I'm talking about better-than-average increases in house prices. I see another wave of in-migration into Alberta."

If Tal is right, then I expect to see strong in-migration to Southwestern Pennsylvania. Given the preceding decades of a moribund economy, what is coming will seem like a real estate bonanza. Of course, that depends upon how well the above three stars align.

No comments: