I interviewed Matt Henderson, the Shale Gas Assets Manager for Penn State’s MCOR. During our field trip, Matt spoke about some R and D currently being worked on. His answers below are paraphrased.
1. What R and D is the natural gas industry currently working on?
I can talk generally. There are a lot of different entities out there and the companies themselves are working on research for applications of natural gas. One project is gas to liquid. There is also the mobile LNG (Liquid Natural Gas). They use mobile LNG on the rig operations and completion operations. Of course there are fleet conversions out there. So they are doing some research on how they can have small liquefaction plants so they could take the gas and liquefy it, or have mobile LNG where they could take it from sites where they’re doing the drilling or completion activities, or use it for onsite power. You’re seeing that spread out across manufacturing, commercialization.
It is kind of in that research phase, where they are trying to make it more effective. It is one of those things where they are trying to do it, and it can be done, but the price is too high. They are trying to eliminate some of those steps so the end result could be comparable and competitive to the price of crude oil and the crude oil refining process.
2. Can any current R and D be applied outside of the hydraulic fracturing industry, or is it all industry specific?
They are applying it outside the industry too. The industry has more of an incentive to use their product, use their gas versus using oil from overseas or imported as a fuel source, but it is being applied elsewhere. The vehicle conversion is a great example. You see the industry taking the lead definitely, but you are seeing it is becoming widespread across fleet conversions trucks. You see UPS, FedEx, some other fleet carriers out there, and some long road truck companies are doing that as well. You see it in multiple industries.
As far as the power conversion, you are seeing commercial and industrial centers are looking to do that. There are some good examples of that going on. Procter and Gamble in Wyoming County is a great example on a larger scale. Trying
to get their energy on the grid (meaning sell excess energy they make).
But when you look at smaller industrial sites such as hospitals, where they
could generate electricity or have their own power source. And they could either sell it to the grid or use it onsite.
3. With all these energy projects, do you think hydraulic fracturing will become a long-term solution for the U.S. energy problems or is it more for smaller projects?
It is relative and all what you consider long term. Originally natural gas was talked about as a bridge fuel until we could get solar to become cost effective so I think it is going to help us get there but I don’t think hydraulic fracturing will become a long term solution. You know, we are using a coal-based or carbon-based resource that is non-renewable. That is not going to be a useful solution to the energy problem.
4. How long term do you think natural gas is then?
It has extended us, and our need as a nation to get the renewables to become cost effective. It is good until we can work on getting the renewables more cost effective, but it seems that those projects are being put on the back burners. You do not see as much federal or state money out there working to get those technologies. It is not going to be the solution. Is it going to be the solution in my life, your life? Yes. I think we are going to have enough energy from hydraulic fracturing and the gas and oil industry. But in generations to come? No. It is not going to be the final solution 100 or 200 years from now.