Registration Open for Sept. 19 Discussion of
Transformative Era in National Energy Scene
The drilling of shale for oil and natural gas is changing the dynamic of the energy industry and could “dramatically decrease” America’s dependence on imported oil, according to New Orleans attorney Keith B. Hall.
Hall is a featured speaker at the first Distinguished Leaders Series (DLS) panel discussion of the semester, which will be held Sept. 19 at the University of Houston C. T. Bauer College of Business and presented by AGL Resources.
While shale development has yielded a steady supply of domestically produced natural gas in recent years, it is starting to have the same impact on oil, Hall says. The shale play that is generating the most excitement now is the Eagle Ford site in South Texas, where new oil drilling has the capacity to transform the economy and create jobs.
“This could dramatically decrease our dependence on oil and gas imported from abroad, which will help the economy, help our national security and allow us to displace some of the use of coal,” says Hall, who joins UH Law Center Adjunct Professor J. Lanier Yeates on the podium of the Sept. 19 DLS panel, “The Essentials of Oil and Gas Development,” which is now open for registration.
“Nothing since Spindletop, which ushered in the era of liquid fuels, has produced the transformative effect on our national energy scene as has the revolutionary impact of oil and gas shale development,” says Yeates.
Launched in 2002, the Distinguished Leaders Series brings leaders from the business world to the UH campus to give students and members of the community first-hand perspectives. Recently, the series has focused on the energy business.
Shale drilling “is really transforming the energy industry,” says Hall, who teaches at Loyola University, practices law at the New Orleans firm of Stone Pigman Walther Wittmann and started his career in the chemical-engineering field. (Yeates, an adjunct professor at the University of Houston since 1990, teaches the law course “Essentials of Oil and Gas Shale Development” and practices in the Houston office of the law firm of Gordon Arata McCollam Duplantis & Eagan.)
Thanks to shale development, “we now have an enormous supply of clean-burning, domestically produced natural gas,” Hall says. “Just a few years ago, everybody thought that the United States would be importing natural gas … for decades to come,” Hall says. “But now you have companies that are seeking permits from the federal government to export natural gas.” Natural-gas prices have dropped 50 percent.
Shale drilling has made North Dakota the No. 4 oil-and-gas state in the country (after Texas, Oklahoma and Louisiana) and is now “going like gangbusters” in South Texas, Hall says. The Texas boom is fueling growth in the construction, trucking, hotel and catering sectors — and in unexpected places like the sand industry. “So much sand is used in the hydraulic fracturing process that the demand has gone through the roof.”
Because shale drilling employs the controversial hydraulic fracturing technique, the practice has generated a number of legal and regulatory issues, all of which will be on the table at DLS discussion. Hall says the media hasn’t done a very good job of explaining hydraulic fracturing.
While on-shore drilling negates offshore risks like spills and leaks, hydraulic fracturing uses a high-pressure mix of water, sand and hazardous chemicals to blast through rocks to release the oil inside. Though there have been concerns and myths about hydraulic fracturing — particularly that it could contaminate and deplete water supplies — Hall says “the evidence is showing that hydraulic fracturing is a very safe process.”
“It’s the same issue for any oil and gas well. The oil and gas well needs to be properly cemented and cased, but if that is done correctly, there should not be any problem.”
By Wendell Brock