Shale gas has changed the game, asserted Porter Bennett, president and CEO of Bentek Energy. In August of 2010, the U.S. exceeded record national gas production levels set in 1971, he said, and is now producing even more.
Drilling technology has decreased the time it takes one producer to drill a well in the Fayetteville shale play from 20 days in 2007 to 11 days in 2010, he said, while the average lateral length has increased by 114 percent, from 2,104 feet to 4,503 feet. Initial production per rig per year is up 341 percent, and developers can drill up to 30 wells on a 10-acre pad.
Concerns about fracking are misplaced, Bennett said, because there are "thousands of feet of impermeable rock between the water table and fracking sites."
But Bennett also said "the issues are up here"--closer to the surface, in the vertical section of the wells, which does run through the water table. "Fluids get spilled; [cement] casings [intended to seal the wells] fail," he acknowledged.
Bennett said shale gas development uses less water per MMBtu of energy produced than other energy sources. According to him, deep shale production uses between 1 and 4 gallons/MMBtu. In contrast, nuclear energy uses between 8 and 14 gallons, gasoline requires 45 gallons, and ethanol needs between 2,200 and 2,500 gallons of water. In addition, he said, the industry "is working hard to find alternatives to water."
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