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Index > Environment > United States of America > Shale Development in U.S. Poses Significant Risks to Investors

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Halliburton Loophole

"Father of Fracking"
George Mitchell
concerns over environmental
impacts of fracking

History of Fracking
Only a new technology

USA Fracking Stories

A Texan tragedy

Gas injection may have triggered earthquakes in Texas

California Lags in Fracking Regulations

All In for California Water

Fracking in Michigan

Fracking in Michigan Potential Impact on Health, Environment, Economy

Hydraulic fracturing of Marcellus Shale

Methane Gas from Marcellus Shale Drilling

Marcellus Shale Gas Economics

Health impacts of Marcellus shale gas drilling

Pennsylvania Fracking

Fracking in Virginia

Lesson From Wyoming Fracking

Water Pollution from Fracking

Hydraulic Fracturing Poses Substantial Water Pollution Risks

Methane in drinking water wells

Abandoned gas wells leak

Natural Gas Leaks Discovered in Boston

Methane Leaks Under Streets of Boston

Methane leaks make fracking dirty

Fracking effects real estate values

Fracking stimulates earthquakes

Protecting Gas Pipelines From Earthquakes

Gas Pipeline Earthquake - Simulations

America's crumbling pipelines

Averting Pipeline Failures

Dangers to Underground Pipelines

Gas Pipelines Could Serve as Wireless Links

Government Action needed on a National Energy Policy

EPA Releases Update on Ongoing Hydraulic Fracturing Study

Solar Booster Shot for Natural Gas Power Plants

Natural Gas Pricing Reform to Facilitate Carbon Tax Policy

Investing in fracking

What Oil Prices Have in Store?

Methane Out, Carbon Dioxide In

Health impacts of Marcellus shale gas drilling

Professor Ingraffea

Anti-Fracking Billboard

Natural Gas Drilling

Threats to Biodiversity

Pronghorn Migration
hindered by gas development

Microbes in a Fracking Site

Protozoa May Hold Key to World Water Safety

Shale Gas Production

Research into the Fracking Controversy

Convert Methane Into Useful Chemicals

Methane Natural Gas Into Diesel

'Natural Gas' at the molecular level

Arctic Methane risks

Arctic Methane Seeps

Great Gas Hydrate Escape

Undersea Methane Seep Ecosystem

Methane in the Atmosphere of Early Earth

Methane Natural Gas Linked to Climate Change

Cutting Methane Pollutants Would Slow Sea Level Rise

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Ohio | Pennsylvania | Texas | Utah | Virginia | Wyoming

Shale Gas


New Ceres Report: Oil Shale Development in Western U.S. Poses Significant Risks to Investors

Cautious Approach to Development on Federal Lands Makes Sense Given Unknowns About the Technology and its Wider Impacts

Boston, MA May 30, 2012 Citing technological uncertainties and a wide range of other risks, a new Ceres white paper supports a federal agency’s proposal to take a cautious approach to oil shale production in the western U.S.

At issue is the Bureau of Land Management’s proposal to focus oil shale production in Wyoming, Utah and Colorado on “Research, Development, and Demonstration” (RD&D) leases only and to reduce the available acreage to about 500,000 acres from nearly two million acres under an earlier plan.

“Given the wide array of uncertainties, BLM’s proposed leasing approach on oil shale makes sense,” said Ceres president Mindy Lubber, citing regulatory risks, water constraints and numerous other questions about various technologies being pursued to extract a non-liquid form of oil from shale rock.

“Investors should be similarly cautious in evaluating future investment in this space.”

“Oil shale technologies are still highly speculative, and proving them to be commercially viable will be difficult and require a long period of time with uncertain outcomes,” said Paul Bugala, senior sustainability analyst, extractive industries, at Calvert Investments.

“The little that state and federal regulators know about the environmental impacts, especially in the areas of water use and land reclamation, further indicates that caution should be exercised.”

While oil shale reserves beneath the three states in the Green River Formation are vast, holding more than three times the proven reserves of Saudi Arabia, the Ceres white paper, Investor Risks from Oil Shale Development, sends a strong cautionary message to policymakers, investors and companies alike.

The white paper, prepared by David Gardiner & Associates, LLC, identifies five key risks to oil shale development:

• Core technological uncertainty: Despite decades of efforts, surface and in-ground technologies for producing oil shale still face many uncertainties.

The report states:

 “The uncertainties around continued testing and development of new technologies and processes for producing oil from oil shale leave a great deal still unknown, including the amount of the resource that is recoverable, the efficiencies and costs of various methods, the impacts on natural resources, and the effects of various technologies on the costs of final products (and thus the competitiveness of oil shale).”

The white paper cites an earlier report by the Task Force on Strategic Unconventional Fuels (comprised of federal, state, and local officials) which states: “technology uncertainty is the largest single risk factor associated with oil shale development.

This uncertainty remains even after 50 years of government and industry research to develop a commercially viable retorting technology.”

• Market risks: Production of oil shale is characterized by significant capital investment, high operating costs, and long payback periods – at least a decade. Uncertainties about the costs associated with developing a first-generation commercial facility, combined with oil price volatility and other uncertainties, pose investment risks that make oil shale investment less attractive than other potential uses of capital.

Sporadic attempts to commercialize oil shale have repeatedly failed once oil prices fall.

• Water constraints: Oil shale development’s need for water is a particular concern in water-stressed states such as Colorado and Utah.

 The report cites estimates showing that surface technologies may require 2 to 4 barrels of water for every barrel of product produced while in-ground technologies may require up to 12 barrels of water per barrel produced.

The U.S. Government Accountability Office has suggested that the size of the oil shale industry in Colorado and Utah may be limited by water availability.

• Regulatory risks: Lifecycle carbon emissions for oil shale fuels are likely to be 25 to 75 percent greater than for conventional petroleum.

This means oil shale development could face risks as carbon-reducing rules and regulations take hold – whether low-carbon fuel standards, a price on carbon emissions, lifecycle emissions requirements, or other measures.

Other federal and state environmental regulations, including those related to air and water quality, also pose risks to oil shale development.

•Risks from public opposition: Public opposition to oil shale based on the actual or perceived environmental impacts could “derail, delay, or increase the costs of such projects,” says the white paper.

More than 70 percent of the Green River Formation oil shale resources lie beneath federal lands.

BLM is presently considering public comments on its proposal to limit development to RD&D leases on 252,181 acres in Utah, 174,476 acres in Wyoming and 35,308 acres in Colorado.

Investor Risks from Oil Shale Development contains three key recommendations for investors:

• They should “analyze their equity investments and engage with relevant companies (e.g., oil and gas companies, end users) in which they are shareholders, to further understand the risks that companies are assuming related to oil shale and the ways in which companies are mitigating those risks.”

• hey should “pay close attention to the potential for risks to emerge in their fixed income portfolios from state and municipal bonds, to the extent such bonds are used to directly or indirectly support development of oil shale.”

• They should “advocate for public policies that create a clearer low-carbon regulatory framework and provide long-term investment certainty.

About Ceres

Ceres is an advocate for sustainability leadership. Ceres mobilizes a powerful coalition of investors, companies and public interest groups to accelerate and expand the adoption of sustainable business practices and solutions to build a healthy global economy.

Ceres also directs the Investor Network on Climate Risk (INCR), a network of 100 institutional investors with collective assets totaling more than $10 trillion.

For more information, visit http://www.ceres.org



 

 

 

 

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