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Mark A. Stansberry
Founder and Chairman, The GTD Group
MS: Natural gas is an abundant, clean fuel that has many domestic uses — from heating our homes to serving as an alternative to gasoline. Natural gas reserves are critical to a strong U.S. economy and extremely important for America’s energy security. It is the bridge fuel to our country’s energy sustainability.
Is natural gas exploration in the energy mix globally?
MS: Most definitely. The Energy Information Administration recently reported that there are 48 gas shale basins outside the U.S. and almost 70 gas shale formations in 32 countries. Canada, Mexico, Chile, Australia, Algeria and Brazil currently produce substantial amounts of natural gas.
Over the last few years, shale gas has been talked about nationally. What is shale gas, and what is its impact?
MS: Up until the last few years, natural gas was produced primarily from “conventional” reservoirs. “Unconventional” natural gas production includes supplies from tight sand formations and shale formations where natural gas is trapped.
Due to technological advancements, there have been shale formation discoveries in numerous basins. There has been so much success that there is currently a natural gas supply bubble. Recently, oil rigs outnumbered natural gas rigs for the first time in 18 years. America has an identified 100year supply of natural gas.
What is hydraulic fracturing, and is it safe for the environment?
MS: The hydraulic fracturing process, or “fracking” as it’s more commonly known, has been in use for more than 60 years. After the drilling of a well has been completed, the shale is cracked by tiny ruptures, allowing the application of water, sand and a small amount of chemical additives to release natural gas.
To my knowledge, there have been no confirmed cases of groundwater contamination due to hydraulic fracturing. There have been minimal reports of improper disposal of wastewater.
Companies realize the importance of water resources for the generations ahead and are using technology to clean and reuse water. Many companies are posting information about the fracking fluids they are using.
How do natural gas emissions compare to oil or coal?
MS: When natural gas is used to generate electricity, natural gas emits half of the CO2 of coal, and 80% less nitrogen oxides. CNG vehicles emit 25% less CO2 than vehicles that run on traditional gasoline or diesel.
What is the future of compressed natural gas used for transportation?
MS: Compressed natural gas as a transportation fuel dates back to World War II. Natural gas currently powers more than 10 million vehicles on the road today worldwide, with over 100,000 vehicles in the U.S. CNG costs are, on average, 40% lower than gasoline.
It should be noted that there are hurdles for a consumer interested in converting a vehicle to CNG or purchasing a CNG vehicle due to costs, and then there is the lack of available infrastructure nationally. There is a strong argument that the investment in a CNG vehicle will be recouped over a short period of time, due to the price differential between CNG and gasoline, for example.
Chesapeake Energy is taking the lead in CNG infrastructure development, which will greatly advance CNG as a transportation fuel. Chesapeake has announced the formation of a $1 billion venture capital fund for investment and technologies to support the CNG infrastructure nationally.
What is the future of natural gas for power generation?
MS: About 22% of electric-generating capacity in America is currently natural-gas fired. Natural gas power plants are less costly to build.
According to the EIA, natural gas use for electricity generation was 38% higher in 2010 as compared to 2001 usage rates.
You have been involved with Energy Advocates, including serving as president. What is its mission?
MS: The Energy Advocates’ mission is to educate the American public about its vital energy industry and energy policy issues in a balanced and unbiased manner.
The current theme for the organization’s public education initiatives is “America Needs America’s Energy” This year, I will have the opportunity to moderate a series of energy roundtables for the Energy Advocates in Montana; Texas; Washington, D.C.; and other locations.
You and Oscar-winning producer Gray Frederickson are producing a documentary based on the book “The Grand Energy Transition.” What is it about?
MS: The film (thegetmovie.com) is based on the book of the same name by Robert Hefner III, a founder and owner of GHK Exploration, who pioneered deep and ultra-deep natural gas exploration.
In the book, which Ted Turner deemed important enough to buy 500 copies for members of Congress and Fortune 500 CEOs, Hefner forecasts the continuing decline of coal and oil, and an energy future called “the age of energy gases,” with America’s abundant natural gas as the bridge, along with wind and solar, to a new, hydrogenbased economy.