Shale oil and gas resources are fairly evenly distributed throughout the world except – irony of ironies! – in the Middle East. They offer a huge new source of fossil fuel energy. However, because of America’s technological advantages, the U.S. will probably be the only country to develop these resources between now and 2030. This will give the U.S. a huge leg up and perhaps even virtual energy independence by that time. That’s the forecast of BP in its recently published Energy Outlook 2030. The figures are depicted in the bar chart above.
The chart on the left represents current estimated resources for tight oil and shale gas for six regions in tons of oil equivalent (toe). Gas is represented in red, oil in green. The Asian Pacific – mainly China and Siberia - actually has the greatest resources at 60 billion toe. But North America, South and Central America, Africa and even Europe and Eurasia (Russia west of the Caucasian Mountains) are all well represented. Only the Middle East has a paucity of potential resources. (What a shame!)
But because of a lack of technological infrastructure, only North America will be developing these resources in the near future, as the chart on the right predicts. The U.S. is already well underway with the Bakken and Marcellus Shale both in full development. Europe also has ample shale gas resources but does not seem disposed to tap them at this time. The rest of the world simply doesn’t have the infrastructure – although don’t bet against China catching up soon. The result is that by 2030, according to BP’s estimates, nearly all the tight oil and gas production will be in North America. Gas will amount to .5 billion toe and tight oil will be .3 btoe. Only Europe and Western Russia will be at 0.1.
But notice also the magnitude of these reserves in comparison with their predicted production. Even at a level where energy independence may be achievable, the U.S. will be producing less than 1/50th of its potential shale oil and gas resources. And the rest of the world will have barely begun! All this suggests that the inflection point of “peak oil” may still be far, far in the future.