Houston Chronicle
Louisiana shale could change fate of U.S. energy supply

Sunday, November 01, 2009

GRAND CANE, La. — Two miles beneath northwest Louisiana's patchwork quilt of forests, cotton fields and pastures, dozens of drill bits are grinding their way toward what may be the nation's energy future.
The region around Shreveport has known oil and gas exploration for decades, but it's now buzzing anew as companies try to capitalize on one simple fact — locked into cement-like shale formations thousands of feet underground are potentially huge quantities of natural gas.

For years, companies have used hydraulic fracturing — injecting water into underground formations to break apart rocks and release more oil and gas. The Woodlands-based Mitchell Energy perfected the techniques in the Barnett shale formations in North Texas. But it wasn't until Devon Energy acquired Mitchell in 2002 that engineers added horizontal drilling — turning the drill bit at a 90-degree angle to tap into a larger section of the strata.

Suddenly these dense formations that companies thought too expensive to drill are economically feasible.
And since companies have been drilling through them for decades to get at conventional oil and gas formations, the locations of the shale formations are well-known, said Rusty Braziel, managing director of Bentek Energy.

“You may as well drop the ‘E' from E&P,” Braziel said, using the common abbreviation for exploration and production. “They don't explore, just produce.”

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