Production Grows – As Do Areas of Concern

Oil and natural gas production continued to grow in the United States in 2013 even as progress on new federal laws and regulations stalled – but local opposition to shale gas and oil development increased.

Canadian shale gas also ballooned – to 2.8 billion cubic feet per day in May 2013 – but still lagged behind its southern neighbor. Canadian shale gas represented only 15 percent of the country’s 2012 production, but jumped to 20 percent in 2013, as per the Canada National Energy Board and U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).

Outside North America, a dozen countries conducted exploratory shale gas drilling – but only China reported commercially viable production, according to EIA. China’s shale gas represented only one percent of the country’s total gas production.

U.S. Production Grew

U.S. oil and natural gas production grew substantially in 2013, but low gas prices continued to shift drilling activities away from natural gas. Below are just a few statistics (EIA data) to document these patterns:

  • In 2012 shale gas was 39 percent of U.S. dry gas production, and Marcellus production was 18 percent of U.S. production. By comparison, shale gas was 28 percent of production in 2011.
  • Natural gas marketed production is projected to have increased from 69.2 Bcf/d in 2012 to 70.4 Bcf/d in 2013.
  • The Henry Hub 2013 average price ($3.69 per thousand cubic feet, mcf, est.) was significantly above 2012 ($2.65/mcf), but nowhere close to the 2008 price of almost $8/mcf.
  • The Bakken Shale produced approximately one million barrels per day in December 2013, and increased oil production from the formation contributed to September 2013 domestic oil production being almost 20 percent over September 2012.
  • Oil well completions increased 18 percent while natural gas completions declined 30 percent, and total well completions increased 6 percent (American Petroleum Institute, third quarter 2013 compared to the third quarter 2012).
Federal Regulations

President Obama stated his intent to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, including reducing methane emissions from oil and gas operations, through executive branch actions because of congressional inaction, and many expected a rush of new regulations.

The early focus of this activity has been on coal-fired power plants, and almost no federal hydraulic fracturing regulations were finalized in 2013. The inaction may reflect longer times for the White House review process, plus the difficulty in dealing with the large number of comments received when draft rules and regulations were released.

The most recent White House regulatory agenda includes:

  • The Bureau of Land Management plans to release its new hydraulic fracturing rules in May 2014.
  • EPA’s draft guidance for hydraulic fracturing using diesel is not yet scheduled for release.
  • The U.S. Coast Guard has sent a draft regulatory proposal on barge transport of flow-back fluids from hydraulic fracturing to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).

Preliminary ideas evidently include requiring barge operators to have certification of no hazardous materials in wastewater shipments – a potentially expensive and time-consuming requirement given that the fluid comes from multiple well sites.

State, Local Bans and Regulations

Local bans on hydraulic fracturing appeared around the country in 2013; the tally is about 400 state and local bans.

State bans or moratoria have been enacted in Maryland, New Jersey, New York and Vermont.

Most of the numerous local bans have not yet taken effect, and many are currently being fought in the courts. A few examples:

  • In Pennsylvania, the state Supreme Court ruled in December that the Marcellus Shale drilling law, Act 13, which allowed companies to drill anywhere in the state without regard to local zoning laws, is unconstitutional.
  • In Colorado, four municipalities have recently banned or suspended hydraulic fracturing. Governor (and past AAPG member) John Hickenlooper has expressed the position that the municipalities lack the authority to determine the use of the state’s natural resources.

Six states have strengthened their regulation of hydraulic fracturing: California, Colorado, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Utah and Wyoming; simultaneously, the governors of energy-producing states have reiterated their opposition to federal regulation of hydraulic fracturing. In late December the governors of 12 energy-producing states sent an open letter to Washington regulators and policy makers asking that regulation be left to the states.

Federal Legislation

Many Senate and House bills have been introduced on both sides of the safety debate, to either strengthen or weaken federal regulation of hydraulic fracturing – but no legislation that would affect hydraulic fracturing has passed either the House or the Senate, let alone both.

Both last year and this year the proposed bills focused on requiring disclosure of chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing fluid, or giving states the authority to regulate hydraulic fracturing on federal lands. 

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Policy Watch

Policy Watch - Edie Allison
Edie Allison began as the Director of the AAPG Geoscience and Energy Office in Washington D.C. in 2012.

Policy Watch

Policy Watch is a monthly column of the EXPLORER written by the director of AAPG's  Geoscience and Energy Office in Washington, D.C. *The first article appeared in February 2006 under the name "Washington Watch" and the column name was changed to "Policy Watch" in January 2013 to broaden the subject matter to a more global view.

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D.C. Bound: Congressional Visits Days Slated for March 10-12

Want to participate in this year’s AAPG Congressional Visits Days (CVD)?

If so, the deadline to register is looming.

This year’s AAPG CVD event will be held March 10-12, but the registration deadline is Feb. 10.

AAPG Congressional Visits Days event annually provides an opportunity for AAPG members to discuss petroleum science and energy issues with decision makers in the legislative and executive branches of the federal government.

It also is an exciting introduction to the world of politics that will provide the tools to use at the local and state levels once you return home. AAPG staff will provide training and briefing materials, and schedule the meetings.

This year’s CVD:

  • Starts with an afternoon briefing on how Congress works; the legislative process; ways to make your visits successful; and issues that are of concern to Washington.
  • On the second day, gives participants the chance to visit the executive branch and congressional committee offices.
  • The third day is devoted to small-group visits to senators’ and representatives’ offices.

To register or get additional information contact Edith Allison, 
GEO-DC’s Energy and Geoscience policy director, at
or (202) 643-6533.

To reserve lodging, contact the 
Army and Navy Club by Feb. 10, at (202) 628-8400; or email

– Edith Allison

See Also: Book

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See Also: Bulletin Article

We use three-dimensional seismic reflection data and new map-based structural restoration methods to define the displacement history and characteristics of a series of tear faults in the deep-water Niger Delta. Deformation in the deep-water Niger Delta is focused mostly within two fold-and-thrust belts that accommodate downdip shortening produced by updip extension on the continental shelf. This shortening is accommodated by a series of thrust sheets that are locally cut by strike-slip faults. Through seismic mapping and interpretation, we resolve these strike-slip faults to be tear faults that share a common detachment level with the thrust faults. Acting in conjunction, these structures have accommodated a north –south gradient in westward-directed shortening. We apply a map-based restoration technique implemented in Gocad to restore an upper stratigraphic horizon of the late Oligocene and use this analysis to calculate slip profiles along the strike-slip faults. The slip magnitudes and directions change abruptly along the lengths of the tear faults as they interact with numerous thrust sheets. The discontinuous nature of these slip profiles reflects the manner in which they have accommodated differential movement between the footwall and hanging-wall blocks of the thrust sheets. In cases for which the relationship between a strike-slip fault and multiple thrust faults is unclear, the recognition of this type of slip profile may distinguish thin-skinned tear faults from more conventional deep-seated, throughgoing strike-slip faults.
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We reviewed the tectonostratigraphic evolution of the Jurassic–Cenozoic collision between the North American and the Caribbean plate using more than 30,000 km (18,641 mi) of regional two-dimensional (2-D) academic seismic lines and Deep Sea Drilling Project wells of Leg 77. The main objective is to perform one-dimensional subsidence analysis and 2-D flexural modeling to better understand how the Caribbean collision may have controlled the stratigraphic evolution of the offshore Cuba region.

Five main tectonic phases previously proposed were recognized: (1) Late Triassic–Jurassic rifting between South and North America that led to the formation of the proto-Caribbean plate; this event is interpreted as half grabens controlled by fault family 1 as the east-northeast–south-southwest–striking faults; (2) Middle–Late Jurassic anticlockwise rotation of the Yucatan block and formation of the Gulf of Mexico; this event resulted in north-northwest–south-southeast–striking faults of fault family 2 controlling half-graben structures; (3) Early Cretaceous passive margin development characterized by carbonate sedimentation; sedimentation was controlled by normal subsidence and eustatic changes, and because of high eustatic seas during the Late Cretaceous, the carbonate platform drowned; (4) Late Cretaceous–Paleogene collision between the Caribbean plate, resulting in the Cuban fold and thrust belt province, the foreland basin province, and the platform margin province; the platform margin province represents the submerged paleoforebulge, which was formed as a flexural response to the tectonic load of the Great Arc of the Caribbean during initial Late Cretaceous–Paleocene collision and foreland basin development that was subsequently submerged during the Eocene to the present water depths as the arc tectonic load reached the maximum collision; and (5) Late Cenozoic large deep-sea erosional features and constructional sediment drifts related to the formation of the Oligocene–Holocene Loop Current–Gulf Stream that flows from the northern Caribbean into the Straits of Florida and to the north Atlantic.

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See Also: DL Abstract

In 2010 Senator Bingaman of New Mexico requested that Department of Energy Secretary Steven Chu engage the National Research Council (NRC), the operating arm of the National Academy of Sciences and National Academy of Engineering, to form an ad hoc committee to examine the topic of “Induced Seismicity Potential in Energy Technologies.”

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See Also: Learn! Blog

This year's AAPG Woodford Shale Forum focused on new information and optimization.  Included were presenters from the University of Oklahoma, Halliburton, Black Swan Energy Services, and Devon Energy just to name a few.

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