CERAWeek '12: Natural gas, US oil improve global energy outlook – Shell CEO


HOUSTON -- Rising US oil and gas reserves stemming from shale, deep-water and Arctic discoveries are providing a dramatic boost to the stability of the world's energy supplies, Royal Dutch Shell CEO Peter Voser said Wednesday.

"These developments promise to dramatically improve the outlook for energy security here and elsewhere around the world," Voser said in remarks delivered at the IHS Cambridge Energy Research Associates conference in Houston.

The addition of these resources, especially natural gas from shale, "is already changing global energy dynamics," Voser said, adding that the amount of oil imported by the Western Hemisphere will fall by up to 50% in this decade.

It is also contributing significantly to US economic recovery, Voser said, by creating jobs, reducing energy costs and boosting critical industries such as chemicals.

The exploitation of unconventional resources, however, faces some challenges, including criticism of hydraulic fracturing operations, which some environmentalists argue contaminate water supplies and generate global warming gases due to methane leakage.

Voser said that so-called fracking techniques are safe and have been tested for decades, and that when problems have occurred, "they were simply due to poorly designed wells. When a well is designed and constructed correctly, groundwater will not be contaminated."

Voser said that he backed President Obama's call for rules to disclose the chemicals used in fracking operations, and said the company in the US already discloses that information on a voluntary basis, "to the extent permitted under our supplier contracts."

The executive said that the industry needs "to take seriously" the issue of methane leakage in fracking operations.

Some studies have "greatly exaggerated" the emissions released in shale production, and ignored steps taken by companies to control these, Voser said.

Voser added that "clearly more research and hard data are needed to understand the true extent of methane releases."

Dow Jones Newswires

The CERAWeek 2012 conference takes place from March 5-9 at the Hilton Americas in Houston, Texas. For more details on the event, click here. Stay tuned to Hydrocarbon Processing for further coverage.

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