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Energy Return on Energy Invested for Tight Gas Wells in the Appalachian Basin, United States of America

Author

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  • Bryan Sell

    () (Section of Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Geneva, Rue des Maraîchers 13, Geneva 1205, Switzerland)

  • David Murphy

    () (Program in Environmental Science, State University of New York – College of Environmental Science and Forestry, Syracuse, NY 13210, USA)

  • Charles A.S. Hall

    () (Program in Environmental Science, State University of New York – College of Environmental Science and Forestry, Syracuse, NY 13210, USA)

Abstract

The energy cost of drilling a natural gas well has never been publicly addressed in terms of the actual fuels and energy required to generate the physical materials consumed in construction. Part of the reason for this is that drilling practices are typically regarded as proprietary; hence the required information is difficult to obtain. We propose that conventional tight gas wells that have marginal production characteristics provide a baseline for energy return on energy invested (EROI) analyses. To develop an understanding of baseline energy requirements for natural gas extraction, we examined production from a mature shallow gas field composed of vertical wells in Pennsylvania and materials used in the drilling and completion of individual wells. The data were derived from state maintained databases and reports, personal experience as a production geologist, personal interviews with industry representatives, and literature sources. We examined only the “upstream” energy cost of providing gas and provide a minimal estimate of energy cost because of uncertainty about some inputs. Of the materials examined, steel and diesel fuel accounted for more than two-thirds of the energy cost for well construction. Average energy cost per foot for a tight gas well in Indiana County is 0.59 GJ per foot. Available production data for this natural gas play was used to calculate energy return on energy invested ratios (EROI) between 67:1 and 120:1, which depends mostly on the amount of materials consumed, drilling time, and highly variable production. Accounting for such inputs as chemicals used in well treatment, materials used to construct drill bits and drill pipe, post-gathering pipeline construction, and well completion maintenance would decrease EROI by an unknown amount. This study provides energy constraints at the single-well scale for the energy requirements for drilling in geologically simple systems. The energy and monetary costs of wells from Indiana County, Pennsylvania are useful for constructing an EROI model of United States natural gas production, which suggests a peak in the EROI of gas production, has already occurred twice in the past century.

Suggested Citation

  • Bryan Sell & David Murphy & Charles A.S. Hall, 2011. "Energy Return on Energy Invested for Tight Gas Wells in the Appalachian Basin, United States of America," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 3(10), pages 1-23, October.
  • Handle: RePEc:gam:jsusta:v:3:y:2011:i:10:p:1986-2008:d:14439
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Cleveland, Cutler J., 1993. "An exploration of alternative measures of natural resource scarcity: the case of petroleum resources in the U.S," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 7(2), pages 123-157, April.
    2. Cleveland, Cutler J., 2005. "Net energy from the extraction of oil and gas in the United States," Energy, Elsevier, vol. 30(5), pages 769-782.
    3. Junginger, M. & Faaij, A. & Turkenburg, W. C., 2005. "Global experience curves for wind farms," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 33(2), pages 133-150, January.
    4. Liu, Zhicen & Koerwer, Joel & Nemoto, Jiro & Imura, Hidefumi, 2008. "Physical energy cost serves as the "invisible hand" governing economic valuation: Direct evidence from biogeochemical data and the U.S. metal market," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 67(1), pages 104-108, August.
    5. Cleveland, Cutler J. & Kaufmann, Robert K. & Stern, David I., 2000. "Aggregation and the role of energy in the economy," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 32(2), pages 301-317, February.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Fizaine, Florian & Court, Victor, 2015. "Renewable electricity producing technologies and metal depletion: A sensitivity analysis using the EROI," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 110(C), pages 106-118.
    2. Devin Moeller & David Murphy, 2016. "Net Energy Analysis of Gas Production from the Marcellus Shale," Biophysical Economics and Resource Quality, Springer, vol. 1(1), pages 1-13, May.
    3. repec:gam:jeners:v:11:y:2018:i:2:p:313-:d:129815 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Roman Nogovitsyn & Anton Sokolov, 2014. "Preliminary Calculation of the EROI for the Production of Gas in Russia," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 6(10), pages 1-15, September.
    5. Hall, Charles A.S. & Lambert, Jessica G. & Balogh, Stephen B., 2014. "EROI of different fuels and the implications for society," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 64(C), pages 141-152.
    6. Brandt, Adam R. & Yeskoo, Tim & Vafi, Kourosh, 2015. "Net energy analysis of Bakken crude oil production using a well-level engineering-based model," Energy, Elsevier, vol. 93(P2), pages 2191-2198.
    7. repec:eee:energy:v:128:y:2017:i:c:p:540-549 is not listed on IDEAS

    More about this item

    Keywords

    EROI; natural gas; tight gas; Appalachian Basin; Indiana County; depletion;

    JEL classification:

    • Q - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics
    • Q0 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - General
    • Q2 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Renewable Resources and Conservation
    • Q3 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Nonrenewable Resources and Conservation
    • Q5 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics
    • Q56 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Environment and Development; Environment and Trade; Sustainability; Environmental Accounts and Accounting; Environmental Equity; Population Growth
    • O13 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Agriculture; Natural Resources; Environment; Other Primary Products

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