Off by orders of magnitude

Off by orders of magnitude I would like to question some of the information presented by Keith Halliday in his November 18 Yukonomist. He quotes the Colorado School of Mines Potential Gas Committee estimates of "over two trillion cubic feet of future sup

I would like to question some of the information presented by Keith Halliday in his November 18 Yukonomist.

He quotes the Colorado School of Mines Potential Gas Committee estimates of “over two trillion cubic feet of future supply, up 35 per cent from 2006É”

The actual news release reads as follows: “When the PGC’s results are combined with the US Department of Energy’s latest available determination of proved gas reserves, 238 Tcf as of year-end 2007, the United States has a total available future supply of 2,074 Tcf, an increase of 542 Tcf over the previous evaluation.”

That represents a difference of three orders of magnitude between what they say and what Halliday said they say.

Those are commas in those numbers, Halliday, not decimals.

Next, total North American gas production is not 70 billion cubic feet (BCF) per year as Halliday claims, it is approximately 28 trillion cubic feet (TCF) per year, or about 76 BCF per day. I suspect he has confused annual production with daily production.

As well, the increase in shale gas he quotes as 250 billion cubic feet, well, that’s actually 250 trillion cubic feet, three orders of magnitude higher. And, Halliday, there are approximately 40 TCF of proved gas reserves on Alaska’s North Slope.

Later, he says: “One downside of shale gas is its environmental impact, although that doesn’t seem to be worrying the Texans very much.”

And that “environmental impact” would be what, exactly?

Natural gas typically burns very cleanly and generates less carbon dioxide per unit of energy obtained than any other available fuel. Perhaps it’s the footprint of all those wells? In fact, a shale gas field the size of Whitehorse could be completely developed with horizontal wells drilled from a couple of well pads, each the size of a city block.

Despite the numerical errors, I completely agree with Keith’s final paragraph describing the Alaska Highway natural gas pipeline, which concludes:

“Écommunities along the route may discover that the only thing worse than the impact of the Alaska Highway natural gas pipeline is the impact of not having it.”

Consider that a well-built, four-bedroom house of typical Whitehorse construction would require about three quarters of a million BTU’s of heat per day at minus 45 Celsius. At current prices, that will cost the homeowner about $35 for furnace oil, about $41 for propane and about $45 for electricity.

If the aforementioned pipeline were in place, the natural gas we could buy would cost about $6.

I keep trying to think of what all the negative impacts of a pipeline would be, but I haven’t come up with anything substantive yet.

Richard Corbet, P.Eng.


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