ConocoPhillips CEO: Skeptics’ warnings of shale bubble are unfounded

HOUSTON — ConocoPhillips CEO Ryan Lance targeted shale boom skeptics Friday, refuting arguments that the surge in oil and gas production will be short-lived.

Speaking at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy, Lance said he believes the country’s shale revolution is only in the “first inning of a nine inning game,” and critics shouldn’t assume growing shale production will stop any time soon.

“What we’re learning is we’ve only scratched the surface of what technology can do to improve the outlook over the years,” said Lance, who’s also chairman of the Houston-based oil and gas giant. “This is the layer that can last for quite some time.”

Some skeptics — notably Canadian geoscientist David Hughes and Houston geologist Arthur Berman — have suggested the U.S. is facing a shale bubble, and energy production declines much more dramatically from shale drilling relative to conventional techniques.

“They’ve got sugar plum fairies dancing in their heads about this infinite supply and how much money we’re going to make and the net for the U.S. economy,” Berman said in an interview with Bloomberg last year.

Rapid declines: Shale well depletion raises questions over US oil boom

But Lance, speaking at Rice’s Geopolitics of Natural Gas conference, adamantly disagreed, arguing that the industry’s technology advances could compensate for any projected production declines.

“The rumor or the suggestion that this might only be around for 10, 15, or 20 years is not founded,” he added.

Natural gas advantage

Lance said his company projects the global demand for natural gas to rise 50 percent by 2030, driven large by China, other parts of Asia, and the Middle East.

He, like other observers, noted that as  LNG export facilities along the Gulf Coast move forward, they hold a significant advantage over other countries looking to build infrastructure to tap into global natural gas demand — namely a well-established energy workforce and pipeline network.

But, he said, not all of the dozens of proposed natural gas export facilities in North America will be built, given their enormous expense and the fact that collectively they would have vastly more capacity to export LNG than the global market needs.

Also on FuelFix:

Wildcatter bets big on Eagle Ford’s fringe