U.S. energy boom kicks off CERA Week

A new age of domestic energy production has upended supply expectations and calls for a rethinking of U.S. energy policy, industry and environmental experts said on the first day of the CERA Week energy conference Monday.

Leaders of a study by the National Petroleum Council, an advisory group to the U.S. Secretary of Energy, told the conference audience that their latest study revealed that the nation’s ability to supply its own energy needs far exceeds conventional expectations of a few years ago.

Technological advancements in energy production have ushered in a new era that requires a rethinking of regulations, land access and environmental protection, council members said.

“The potential of the gas resource to supply the market for decades to come at a fairly moderate cost was way beyond what we had originally conceived and a sea change from what was generally perceived five or six years ago,” said Andrew Slaughter, a business environment advisor for Shell Exploration & Production Company.

“You see a similar trend in oil,” Slaughter said. “This has the potential of significantly increasing the proportion of North American oil demand that is met by North American supply. That’s a radical change from pervious thinking.”

The weeklong conference, which attracts energy industry executives and researchers from around the globe, is underway at the Hilton Americas hotel downtown.

Leaders of the National Petroleum Council study opened the conference with insights into their landmark report on the scope and impact of U.S. oil and gas resources, released last fall.

The study brought together members of the oil and gas industry and representatives of environmental groups to provide recommendations on appropriate energy policy.

The group estimated how domestic demand and supply will change in coming decades.

“With reasonable access and balanced regulations, supply can meet or exceed a very high potential level of demand and exports,” said A. Scott Moore, vice president of marketing for Anadarko Petroleum. “However, if more restrictive regulation or access limitations are imposed, then the resulting gas supply could be insufficient to meet demand leading to greater reliance on imports of LNG.”

As the nation’s development of natural gas has surged in recent years, several companies have applied for federal permits to export liquefied natural gas overseas.

Mark Browntsein, deputy director of the energy program at the Environmental Defense Fund, who also worked on the NPC study, said that realizing the nation’s natural gas supply also required appropriate environmental precautions and improved communication with communities where drilling occurs.

“Getting environmental performance right is not a luxury, it is not a marketing strategy. It is a critical path, business strategy to realize the resource that’s in front of us,” Brownstein said. “If we are able to do this correctly, there is tremendous potential in terms of energy security and environmental outcomes. If we are not able to do this correctly, it will fundamentally limit the supply and the opportunity.”