By Raheem J. Brennerman, chairman and CEO of The Blacksands Pacific Group
Not too long ago, energy insiders and industry commentators were talking about “peak oil.” Just two decades later, the U.S. is experiencing a boom in shale oil and gas, brought about by a combination of investment, innovation and the application of modern technology and techniques, such as hydraulic fracturing. American oil and gas companies have become world leaders in the field and, according to the Energy Information Agency, shale gas is set to account for 50% of U.S. natural gas production, up from an already impressive 35% today. Such a truly transformational change in the energy landscape has brought with it invaluable jobs and wealth. But, unless America continues to invest heavily in its infrastructure, it will fail to take full advantage of this reliable and abundant source of energy and all it has to offer.
In a relatively short space of time, America’s shale revolution has provided financial security to landowners, rewarded investors, encouraged technological innovation, boosted local and national public finances to the tune of billions of dollars, and delivered much-needed jobs to rural areas. U.S. companies have developed the operational, scientific and technical know-how to make shale oil and gas deposits more easily accessible and economically viable, placing them at a considerable advantage to its international competitors.
China, for example, is desperate to exploit its shale gas reserves, (estimated to be two-thirds larger than America’s) and so has been actively purchasing stakes in U.S. oil and gas companies in order to import American expertise. In July, the China National Energy Administration toured shale facilities in Pennsylvania to learn from the U.S. and to market the benefits of teaming with Chinese enterprises. The recent joint venture between China’s Sinopec and hydraulic fracturing world leader FTS International is likely to be one of many future partnerships and acquisitions between Chinese and U.S. companies.
But the U.S. can’t afford to rest on its laurels. As Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz acknowledged recently at Carnegie Mellon University, the U.S. has “huge infrastructure problems” in terms of transporting, storing and distributing natural gas. As a nation, we must construct more pipelines and terminals so that we can transport gas to domestic and, in future, international, markets. It is a similar situation for shale oil: investment bank Goldman Sachs estimates that there is so much shale oil in the U.S. that domestic oil production is likely to exceed available refining capacity by as soon as mid-2015.
Encouragingly, investors are poised to spend billions of dollars on infrastructure projects -- some of which have been waiting years for government approval. I hope that Capitol Hill is busy drafting streamlined regulatory processes so that this essential infrastructure can be built. The incentives of continued and increased investment could not be clearer: jobs; tax revenues; cheaper gas; lower manufacturing costs; environmental benefits; less reliance on imports from unstable countries and -- not to be underestimated -- enhanced diplomatic influence through exports of oil and gas and technological expertise.
The U.S. is ideally positioned to play an influential role in the development of shale oil and gas reserves across the world. But it must leverage its operational and technological advantage to best effect so that the industry can continue to contribute to the long-term prosperity of the nation. Provided there is considerable financial, political and regulatory investment, the U.S. shale oil and gas landscape has a very bright future and the goal of energy independence in America is achievable.
Raheem J. Brennerman is Chairman and CEO of The Blacksands Pacific Group, an international oil and gas exploration and production company. He is also chairman of BLV Group, a real estate investment, management and development company he founded in 2004. An entrepreneur, philanthropist and experienced investor, Brennerman previously worked in investment banking and is the principal of Jefferson III Holdings, a private investment company.