HOUSTON (Dow Jones Newswires), Nov. 8, 2011
ExxonMobil is confident the shale boom that has changed the U.S. energy landscape will spread across the globe, resulting in increased oil and natural gas supplies, a top executive said.
"We do believe there is potential for unconventional oil development from shale resources globally," Mark Albers, ExxonMobil senior vice president, said in an interview. "We are pursuing that not only in a number of the countries where we have unconventional gas potential but also here in the U.S."
Albers's remarks come after ExxonMobil, the world's largest publicly owned oil company, said in October it was changing its drilling focus to oil shale in the U.S. and also looking for oil and other liquids in some countries where it has large shale gas assets, such as Argentina and Germany. Texas-based Exxon also has shale gas concessions in Poland and it's currently in talks with China to evaluate the country's shale gas potential, Albers said.
Other companies are joining the global oil-shale game too: On Monday, Repsol YPF said it has found large reserves of shale oil in Argentina's Neuquen Province. Marathon Oil said in October it expects to find oil in Poland's shale formations.
Speaking at an energy conference in Houston, Albers said Tuesday that although there is strong international potential for shale, its development will be slower than in North America, and it could take up to two decades to fully blossom. This is because shale development in the U.S. and Canada began with a much better understanding of the geology than companies currently have elsewhere in the world.
The U.S. and Canada also have the advantage of a well-developed pipeline infrastructure, a strong drilling and fracture stimulation service industry and familiarity with operations involving large numbers of wells, trucks and traffic, Albers said. "Acquiring that knowledge will take time," he said.
Albers said ExxonMobil is focusing on countries that have existing infrastructure serving conventional oil-and-gas developments, such as Germany, because those resources could also be used down the road for unconventional energy. ExxonMobil believes challenges such as lack of rigs and skilled workers will be overcome with time and that companies will favor nations with "sound energy policies."
"The governments that understand how market-based policies foster growth and investment will be in the best position to take advantage of the economic opportunities presented by unconventional gas," Albers said.
Albers said that although unconventional oil and gas production seems "novel or untested" to many communities, the oil industry can extract those resources while safeguarding the surrounding environment. "Our industry must exercise a firm commitment to continue properly managing the risks involved with energy production," Albers said. "That means meeting the highest standards of well design and well integrity. It means safely and efficiently handling the water and additives used to fracture wells."
Copyright (c) 2011 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
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