Analysts say reserves can be safely tapped if leaders have the will
By Michael Carl
He added that other factors are involved in helping reduce the cost of a gallon of gasoline.
“Certainly any oil that is produced domestically can be transported more economically than importing it from overseas. So, to the extent that the oil can be drilled and produced in this country, it should benefit the consumer,” Duncan explained.
Duncan said Canadians are in the best position in terms of supply.
Alberta Energy Department spokesman Tim Markle said the Alberta oil sands can yield more than 170 billion barrels of oil.
There are a variety of methods to get to the oil reserve, he pointed out.
“The methods vary from company to company based on the processes they’re using,” Markle explained. “There’s open pit mining. There are other processes that include steam-assisted gravity drainage and a vapex system. There’s also toe-to-heel air injection.”
Energy analysts say demand for crude oil will double by 2035, but some argue that with vast untapped petroleum reserves that can be accessed by new environmentally safe technologies, the U.S. can become energy independent if it has the political will.
The increase in demand was highlighted by President Obama’s announcement last week that the federal government is opening up Florida’s west coast, part of Alaska’s northern coast and the southern Atlantic Shelf for exploration and drilling.
The Atlantic Shelf is estimated to have more than 3.8 billion barrels of oil from Newfoundland to southern Florida. But the American Petroleum Institute’s Erik Milito points out Obama’s target area is smaller.
“Obama didn’t include the whole Atlantic coast in the program. He included south of Delaware and somewhere about the middle of the Florida coast. It’s not all-encompassing,” Milito explained.
“It’s hard to say how much is really available in the area Obama included, but it’s most likely going to be lower than the [3.8 million barrels],” he said.
Milito said the estimates are shaky, noting they are based on data and seismic activity more than 30 years old.
“The industry hasn’t had a chance to go out there and take a look with the newer technologies,” he said. “The estimates could change and maybe even go up.”
Milito added that opponents of offshore drilling shouldn’t be too concerned, because new technologies are making offshore drilling safer.
“It’s not the platforms; it’s the drilling methods that have changed in terms of having blowout preventers. You have stacks of them so that when there’s a blowout they shut off,” Milito said.
He explained that during the production stage, subsurface safety valves keep any liquids or oil from leaking into the water.
Spikes in oil prices over the past two years have turned attention to the Bakken oil shale deposits in North Dakota, Montana and the Canadian province of Saskatchewan.
The U. S. Geological Survey estimates there are 3 to 4 billion barrels of oil in the Bakken field.
“If we have more oil on the market, the price should go down. It’s the simple law of supply and demand,” observed USGS Petroleum analyst Doug Duncan.
Markle added that companies in Alberta are moving to a cleaner and more environmentally friendly method.
“Open pit mining is the most economical, but it has an adverse environmental impact. So most of the companies coming on line are using steam-assisted gravity drainage or toe-to-heel air injection,” Markle said.
Markle said that future demand is only going to increase, and he believes that the Alberta oil sands are the best source to meet the growing demand.
“We know we can access 170.4 billion barrels, and by 2018 we’ll be producing 3 million barrels a day instead of the 1.4 million barrels a day now,” Markle projected.
“As more companies come online there will be more oil coming out of here. And as we further our technology, we’ll likely find that we can get more oil out of the oil sands,” Markle said.
Both Alberta’s Markle and the American Petroleum Institute’s Milito say oil is becoming a safer and more environmentally friendly energy source.
Political analyst J. D. Pendry said the barrel estimates from the Atlantic Shelf and the Bakken Fields show that the U.S. should be energy independent. He says the lagging development has no logical explanation.
“We have enough oil reserves in our country, much of which is on federal lands, to achieve energy independence. We have more than any other nation on the planet,” Pendry claimed.
“Yet we choose instead to empower the Middle East and tyrants like (Venezuela’s) Hugo Chavez rather than developing our own oil and energy sources,” he said.
“When you factor in our coal reserves and the potential for coal-to-liquid fuel development, it is even more astounding that we purchase even one drop of fuel from other countries,” said Pendry.
He believes the reason for the continued dependence is a lack of political will on the part of leaders. He believes there’s some political maneuvering.
“It’s only a smoke screen for the uninformed, which amazingly enough still works today. When cap-and-trade is forced on us, the president will state that he is pursuing drilling and claim the Republicans aren’t supporting him in his efforts,” Pendry said. “Our energy situation is mind-boggling.”