Natural gas is the second most significant fuel for power generation around the world, but it trails the leader, coal, by a significant margin. Coal-fired power has underpinned economic growth in major emerging markets and still plays an important role in developed countries like the United States, Germany, Japan, and Australia. However, continued reliance on coal carries a high price in smog and greenhouse gases. In his new book COAL (Polity Press, 2019), Dr. Mark Thurber explains why cleaner alternatives to traditional coal combustion—including natural gas, nuclear, renewable energy, and “clean coal”—have yet to make a major dent in coal use in China, India, and other developing economies. (Thurber is the associate director of Stanford's Program on Energy and Sustainable Development as well as co-leader of NGI's focus area on global markets, pricing, and governance.)
As Thurber discusses in the book, natural gas faces two major challenges vis-a-vis coal. The first is cost competitiveness. The shale gas revolution has made gas cost-competitive in North America, but gas remains more expensive than coal in most of the world. Fuller incorporation of environmental factors — both local air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions — into energy markets could help bridge this cost gap. The second challenge is that the gas value chain can be difficult to stitch together. The high cost of gas transportation infrastructure, including pipelines and LNG, means it will only be built if there is a creditworthy end customer willing to pay high-enough prices for gas over a long period of time. But potential customers are unlikely to build out gas-using applications until they are certain that gas will reliably be available. Policymakers interested in carving out a larger role for gas must find ways to ease this value chain coordination problem, especially in countries with limited existing infrastructure for gas transportation and use.
Since the beginning of the US shale gas revolution in 2005, the development of unconventional oil and gas resources has gathered tremendous pace around the world. This book provides a comprehensive overview of the key geologic, geophysical, and engineering principles that govern the development of unconventional reservoirs. The book begins with a detailed characterization of unconventional reservoir rocks: their composition and microstructure, mechanical properties, and the processes controlling fault slip and fluid flow. A discussion of geomechanical principles follows, including the state of stress, pore pressure, and the importance of fractures and faults. After reviewing the fundamentals of horizontal drilling, multi-stage hydraulic fracturing, and stimulation of slip on pre-existing faults, the key factors impacting hydrocarbon production are explored. The final chapters cover environmental impacts and how to mitigate hazards associated with induced seismicity. This text provides an essential overview for students, researchers, and industry professionals interested in unconventional reservoirs.