Dallas is back!

Everyone’s favourite super-soap from the 1980s is on our screens again – with a re-boot which brings a whole new generation of Ewings into the heady mix of intrigue, power, sex and oil. I never saw much of the original series, (not the sort of thing that was watched in our household) but having just written a book on oil and its role in mankind’s future, I felt justified in watching some of the first episode – just for research.
The storyline centres around a new find of oil – a test well drilled on Southfork land hits an oilfield with apparently “2 billion barrels of light, sweet, crude.” And here’s where Dallas veers off from fiction into the realm of fantasy – and today’s lesson in the oil industry begins: In fact new oil fields are being developed in America, but they are not ‘gushers’ – where oil spurts up a vertically drilled well. There was a time when, it seemed if you stuck a pitchfork in the ground in parts of Texas, oil would come up – but those days are long gone. New oil finds are so-called “tight oil” or shale oil. An oil boom is going on in North Dakota and Montana as the industry begins to develop oil production from the Bakken shale rock formation.
A couple of brief comments: Whilst there is a lot of loose talk about the US (the world’s largest energy user) becoming self-sufficient in energy, oil prices remain stubbornly high. Shale oil is not like Dallas fantasy crude – the process of drilling and fracking to remove the oil from the rock takes a huge amount of energy, and so the net energy return is much lower – the oil price needs to be at least $70 a barrel to make any money. Secondly, all this excitement about new oil needs to be tempered by the fact that traditional oil supplies are going into decline. Shale oil is expensive, and there isn’t enough to go round. Lastly, what about climate change? We are apparently way ahead of even the most pessimistic models in terms of arctic ice melt, arguably weather patterns are already being affected by this shocking change. We have got to wean ourselves off this dangerous addiction to burning fossil fuels.
Post by Andy Mellen

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