The rapid development of unconventional oil and gas in the US and Canada revolutionised these countries’ energy economies and realised significant economic benefits. Innovative Australian companies are reaping the rewards of this boom, exporting technology and expertise overseas. Now, Australia may be poised for its own ‘unconventional revolution’.
Extracting unconventional oil and gas
Unconventional oil and gas resources, such as coal seam gas, shale oil and gas, and tight oil and gas, are located in reservoirs with differing geology to traditional oil and gas reservoirs. This means that they cannot be extracted by conventional methods and usually require hydraulic fracturing (or fraccing).
Francois Steverlynck, Managing Director of Crusader Hose, has extensive experience in the industry, with the company’s hoses utilised on various unconventional oil and gas projects in the US and Canada to transport the water required for fraccing.
Crusader Hose is considered a pioneering company in the industry, having recognised and fulfilled the need for an innovative water transfer solution for fraccing. Crusader’s unique layflat hose is flexible and durable enough to transport water from sources up to 15 km away over uneven terrain, preventing the need for costly infrastructure to be built to store water closer to the well sites. Unlike poly pipes, they are also easy to pack away, store and transport to remote locations and between different well sites.
“Thanks to technological advancements in horizontal drilling and fraccing, many unconventional oil and gas resources that were previously considered too difficult and uneconomical to extract can now be developed,” said
“Fraccing is already used within Australia to extract coal seam gas, which currently accounts for around 13 per cent of total natural gas production. However, success overseas demonstrates that fraccing can also be safely and effectively used to extract shale and tight gas and oil resources on a commercial scale.”
Fraccing and the US shale boom
Over the last decade, the US and Canada have seen an unprecedented boom in unconventional gas and oil production. In 2012, the US became the world’s largest producer of natural gas and the third largest producer of oil.
This resulted in increased uptake of natural gas as an energy source, decreasing emissions despite increased energy production; reduced gas prices, benefiting the domestic market, spurring local industry and increasing the attractiveness of the US for industrial investment; and a significant reduction in North America’s dependence on energy imports, enhancing energy security.
The industry also directly employs over two million people, and around 7,000 US companies are active in onshore gas production.
Australia’s unconventional potential
With geological and industry conditions resembling those of the USA and Canada, Mr Steverlynck believes that Australia has the potential for a similar unconventional oil and gas boom, with similar economic rewards.
Australia is estimated to have resources of around 235Tcf of coal seam gas and 437Tcf of shale gas. Significant tight gas resources are also thought to occur, in addition to around 18 billion barrels of technically recoverable shale or tight oil.
“Australia’s natural gas is an abundant, lower cost, lower emission energy resource,” Mr Steverlynck says.
“Australia has vast potential shale, tight and coal seam gas resources,” he says. “Not only is there ample gas in these reservoirs to meet the needs of the domestic market, there is enough for increased exports.”
Natural gas is already one of Australia’s largest exports, bringing many billions of dollars into the economy every year. The oil and gas industry also accounts for around a third of Australian business investment, with over $200 billion in project investment committed up to 2017 and another $100 billion possible.
“Developing unconventional gas would be a boon for the Australian industry and the economy,” says Mr Steverlynck. “It would result in direct and indirect job creation, boost the manufacturing sector, foster regional development and contribute billions of dollars in taxation.”
Australia’s energy security and independence could also be significantly enhanced. While the country currently relies on substantial oil imports, Australia has its own substantial undeveloped oil resources associated with shale and tight reservoirs.
The success of Australian manufactured products on overseas fraccing projects shows that Australia already has access to the technology and expertise to expand its unconventional gas industry.
Crusader’s hoses are an example of an Australian made product that has bucked the downturn in local manufacturing and increased its export market.
Developing unconventional oil and gas will create further opportunities for Australian companies to follow Crusader Hose’s example and expand into a growing area, providing the equipment and expertise for safe and efficient fraccing to both local and international markets.
“The many benefits of hydraulic fracturing and unconventional gas development within Australia are evident,” says Mr Steverlynck. “It’s time for Australia to develop unconventional oil and gas and reap the benefits of becoming a leader in this growing international industry.”