President's column - 2012 SPE President Ganesh Thakur offers his “unconventional” views.
The word “unconventional” has become quite common in today’s E&P (exploration and production) lexis. A quick search of SPE’s OnePetro.org library returns more than 1,750 documents using the word in the title. This is not surprising, since most energy analysts believe that world sources of unconventional hydrocarbons—such as gas hydrates, tight gas sandstones, and oil and gas shales—hold more fuel than undiscovered conventional hydrocarbon sources.
According to the International Energy Agency’s World Energy Outlook 2011, the long-term global natural gas resource base is very roughly estimated at more than 800 Tcm, of which about 50% is unconventional gas. Total natural gas resources could sustain today’s production for more than 250 years, and all regions have resources approximately equal to at least 75 years of current consumption.
The IEA also projects oil demand will hit 99 million B/D in 2035. A growing share of oil equivalent output will come from natural gas liquids and unconventional crude resources, such as extra heavy oil, oil sands in Canada, and tight oil in the US. Unconventional oil production will play an increasingly important role in the global energy economy.