Data Analytics Reverses Grandiose Claims for California’s Monterey Shale Formation

In May, “federal officials” contacted the Los Angeles Times with advance news of a radical revision of estimates of reserves in the Monterey Formation,

Just 600 million barrels of oil can be extracted with existing technology, far below the 13.7 billion barrels once thought recoverable from the jumbled layers of subterranean rock spread across much of Central California, the U.S. Energy Information Administration said.

The LA Times continues with a bizarre story of how “an independent firm under contract with the government” made the mistake of assuming that deposits in the Monterey Shale formation were as easily recoverable as those found in shale formations elsewhere.

There was a lot more too, such as the information that –

The Monterey Shale formation contains about two-thirds of the nation’s shale oil reserves. It had been seen as an enormous bonanza, reducing the nation’s need for foreign oil imports through the use of the latest in extraction techniques, including acid treatments, horizontal drilling and fracking…

The estimate touched off a speculation boom among oil companies.

Well, I’ve combed the web trying to find more about this “mistake,” deciding that, probably, it was the analysis of David Hughes in “Drilling California,” released in March of this year, that turned the trick.

Hughes – a geoscientist working decades with the Geological Survey of Canada – utterly demolishes studies which project 15 billion barrels in reserve in the Monterey Formation. And he does this by analyzing an extensive database (Big Data) of wells drilled in the Formation.

The video below is well worth the twenty minutes or so. It’s a tour de force of data analysis, but it takes a little patience at points.

First, though, check out a sample of the hype associated with all this, before the overblown estimates were retracted.

Monterey Shale: California’s Trillion-Dollar Energy Source

Here’s a video on Hughes’ research in Drilling California

Finally, here’s the head of the US Energy Information Agency in December 2013, discussing a preliminary release of figures in the 2014 Energy Outlook, also released in May 2014.

Natural Gas 2014 Projections by the EIA’s Adam Sieminski

One question is whether the EIA projections eventually will be acknowledged to be affected by a revision of reserves for a formation that is thought to contain two thirds of all shale oil in the US.

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