Scientists studying oil and gas well production data are beginning to question how long the boom will last, however, suggesting that a shale oil and gas bust may come sooner than expected, even as the industry insists that the boom has been and will continue to be a success.
British Columbia-based geoscientist David Hughes, whose research was presented at the Geological Society of America meeting this week in Denver, says the story hidden in oil well production numbers is that oil and gas production from fracking could peak in some places as soon as 2016.
Soon after the Jake well was drilled, the amount of oil it produced declined sharply. In just a few months in 2009, the well produced 48,373 barrels of oil, Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission data show. By 2012, the Jake well’s annual production totaled 22,300 barrels. So far in 2013, the gusher has eeked out only about 6,000 barrels.
It’s the same picture in oil wells throughout the Niobrara shale, where oil production declines more than 65 percent in a new well’s first year of production, Hughes said.
In the Bakken shale of North Dakota, an oil play slated to tie into the controversial Keystone XL Pipeline, production declines 44 percent in the first year across the entire oil field. Production in the Eagle Ford shale south of San Antonio, Texas, declines 34 percent in the first year, according to Hughes’ data. Production in the Haynesville oil field in Texas and Louisiana peaked after just 5 years, he said.
And as Hughes noted, the more production drops off in individual oil wells, the more wells companies have to drill and frack to make up the difference.
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