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California must surmount environmental hurdle for potential oil boom

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
January 14th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

California could enjoy another oil boom, but only if the state can overcome the resistance from the state's powerful environmental lobby. There is a massive amount of shale oil available running from Los Angeles to San Francisco that could spell prosperity for the Golden State.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - California's Monterey Shale is believed to contain more oil than North Dakota's Bakken and Texas's Eagle Ford. Both of those states have enjoyed recent oil booms that have created thousands of jobs and boosted U.S. oil production to the highest rate in over a decade.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, Monterey is thought to hold over 400 billion barrels of oil, nearly half the conventional oil in all of Saudi Arabia. The U.S. consumes about 19 million barrels of oil a day.

"Four hundred billion barrels, that doesn't escape anyone in this business," Stephen Trammel, energy research director at IHS Cambridge Energy Research Associates says. Theoretically, the only impasse now is getting the oil out.

California's geologic layers are folded like an accordion, thanks to earthquake generator the San Andreas Fault. Rather than simply stacked on top of each other, the layers are stacked in Shale states. The folds have naturally cracked the shale rock, and much of California's current "conventional" oil production, which is the third largest in the nation, is thought to come from the Monterey.

Horizontal drilling combined with hydraulic fracturing, recent advancements that have made shale oil and gas profitable to extract don't work as well in California. It's difficult to drill horizontally if the shale is not flat.

More importantly, it appears the Monterey is made up of shale rock that doesn't respond as well to hydraulic fracturing. Fracking is the controversial process that involves injecting water, sand and chemicals into the ground under high pressure to crack the rock and allow the oil and gas to flow.

The U.S. Energy Information Agency maintains that there are over 15 billion barrels of oil that can be recovered using today's technology.

"That's a huge number," Matt Woodson, an analyst at the energy research firm Wood Mackenzie says. Woodson said the 15 billion estimates far exceeds current numbers for North Dakota's Bakken Shale, and is about half the amount held in Alaska's North Slope before it was tapped.

That potential has attracted the attention of the oil industry. Several oil companies have put together research teams to work on the Monterey.

If the Monterey takes off, Katie Potter, head of exploration and production staffing at NES Global Talent, said the impact on jobs in the state would be huge, saying the shale boom has already created 600,000 jobs nationwide over the last few years.

"It could potentially solve the state's budget deficit," she said.

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