Samples sent: US to assess potential of Pakistan’s shale gas reserves

Published: August 22, 2014
Exploration companies have already found some traces of shale gas during the search for conventional gas as 10% to 12% of shale gas appears on upper faces of conventional gas. PHOTO: FILE

Exploration companies have already found some traces of shale gas during the search for conventional gas as 10% to 12% of shale gas appears on upper faces of conventional gas. PHOTO: FILE


Pakistan has sent samples of shale gas to the United States to determine the prospects of reserves of this untapped energy source following encouraging estimates given by the US Energy Information Administration (EIA), officials say.

According to the EIA assessment, Pakistan holds massive shale gas reserves estimated at 51 trillion cubic feet (tcf), close to the conventional gas reserves of 58 tcf.

At present, the government is conducting a study with the technical assistance of US Agency for International Development to prove the presence of huge shale gas deposits in the country.

Sources disclose that USAID has provided $1.8 million in technical assistance for undertaking the study. “Some samples have been sent to the US and research work will be completed in one year,” an official said, adding they were also looking for adopting US technology.

Washington is also imparting technical training to Pakistani officials and employees and engineers of public sector oil and gas companies.

The Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Resources has sent a summary to the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) of the cabinet, seeking the go-ahead for initiating a pilot project to search and consume the shale gas potential. The move is aimed at gradually bridging the yawning gap between demand and supply of energy.

Shale gas is natural gas that is found trapped within shale formations. It has low permeability compared to conventional reserves, that’s why it does not come out easily and a specific amount of investment and pricing are required to encourage its exploitation.

At present, Pakistan is not producing shale gas and needs to undertake significant initial work to tap this energy resource.

The US, after the discovery of massive shale gas deposits there in recent years, has become a gas-exporting country. In future, reports say, it will experience a boom in shale oil production as well and will become the largest oil producer.

Officials point out that Pakistan will offer $12 per million British thermal units (mmbtu) to gas exploration and production companies under the pilot programme, a price that is close to the cost of gas to be imported from Iran under the Iran-Pakistan pipeline project.

“A policy framework has been prepared and its approval will be sought from the ECC in its upcoming meeting,” an official of the petroleum ministry told The Express Tribune.

According to the official, exploration companies have already found some traces of shale gas during the search for conventional gas as 10% to 12% of shale gas appears on upper faces of conventional gas.

Experts suggest that Pakistan has consumed around 40% of conventional gas reserves and shale gas is the most viable option to meet growing energy needs.

A study conducted by a group of exploration and production companies says the production of shale gas will be economical at about 80% of the price of Brent crude, but this will have to be brought down to 70%.

Apart from shale gas, the government is also planning to drill 400 wells in the next four years in an effort to enhance the country’s oil and gas production.

Though in the past one year new gas deposits had been found, total production of the country stood at almost the same level at four billion cubic feet per day because of depletion of reserves in old fields.

According to officials, the country has added 500 million cubic feet of gas per day (mmcfd) from new finds, but a quantity more than that has been depleted. Therefore, the impact of additional 500 mmcfd is not reflected in overall production.

However, oil output has risen to near 100,000 barrels per day compared to 74,000 barrels per day earlier.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 22nd, 2014.

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Reader Comments (25)

  • hozur
    Aug 22, 2014 - 6:05AM

    Why USA and not china?China should have good technology and being Pakistan maybe done gratis.


  • Aug 22, 2014 - 6:14AM

    Why not seize oilrich regions west of our borders Iran southern Iraq can make pakistan Very rich besides all this wealth is being used to promote iranian and shia terrorism, pakistan can use it to alleviate poverty


  • Haha
    Aug 22, 2014 - 6:34AM

    Great! Now they can plan to invade Pakistan for resources too using a false flag event or “inaccurate intelligence” — except that Pakistan actually has WMD so it won’t be so simple =)Recommend

  • unbelievable
    Aug 22, 2014 - 7:33AM

    Still amazed that the USA still helps a country that doesn’t have the common courtesy to say “thank you”.


  • A H Nayyar
    Aug 22, 2014 - 7:41AM

    Shale exploitation requires a lot of water to push out the oil or gas. Where is water in Pakistan to spare for shale oil?


  • MK
    Aug 22, 2014 - 7:54AM

    Probably not a good idea in a highly water stressed country.


  • S. Qureshi
    Aug 22, 2014 - 10:25AM

    Why no one in ET moderates comments from these Indians? Just look at their IP and you will find out.


  • Tauseef
    Aug 22, 2014 - 10:30AM

    @unbelievable: If you think US is helping Pakistan then you are deluded.


  • Aug 22, 2014 - 10:39AM

    @A H Nayyar: Its not drinkable water you can use even sea water, now do we have a shortage of that


  • Naila
    Aug 22, 2014 - 11:02AM

    Please keep these people away from my country.


  • Aug 22, 2014 - 11:03AM

    What about carbon emissions, global warming and climate change? I wonder why we keep looking for oil while Solar and Wind energy is abundantly available.


  • Secular Pakistani
    Aug 22, 2014 - 11:05AM

    Please Update it:As per EIA most recent report,the Pakistani Shale gas recoverable reserves are 105TCF oppose to earlier report claiming of 51TCFRecommend

  • ahmed
    Aug 22, 2014 - 12:30PM

    hozur US is pioneer in this technology and thats why US is now exporting gas, china is no way near US.
    and water dont worry for it, KSA is also doing it they are getting water from deep wells drilled next to their Oil/gas wells in the middle of desert, plus gas doesnt need water to flow.


  • Oah
    Aug 22, 2014 - 2:10PM

    What about Coal than ?


  • Well Wisher
    Aug 22, 2014 - 2:11PM

    Good Sign


  • Yousaf
    Aug 22, 2014 - 2:38PM

    There goes Mr Bhutta again. after a whole year spent on an oilpipeline now we have moved on to shale gas …..lots of talk no action…


  • unbelievable
    Aug 22, 2014 - 4:41PM


    @unbelievable: If you think US is
    helping Pakistan then you are deluded.

    Thanks for making my point.


  • Someone, somewhere
    Aug 22, 2014 - 5:08PM

    Just a slight correction and few highlights involving published shale gas figures.

    The published figures are from EIA’s 2012 unconventional resource assessment of Pakistan. Based on their most recent evaluation using 3-D seismology and few previously drilled test wells, the data has been significantly revised upwards. It is now believed, technically recoverable indigenous shale natural gas reserves to hover around the 105 Trillion Cubic Feet mark. Similarly, same report’s assessment, calculates shale crude oil reserves to be roughly 9 Billion Barrels, ranking Pakistan in top 10 holders of such reserves.

    United States upstream companies are globally proven as industry leaders in technologies and managerial capabilities associated with the E&P of unconventional resource types. In fact, the global shale revolution currently in the making, undoubtedly is the by-product of American petroleum industry’s scientific ingenuity and strategic foresight. The advent of shale extraction technologies and working methods originated in the United States, when such extraction techniques were initially applied on conventional petroleum reservoirs namely crude, in early 1900s. However, at the time in the absence of economies of scales and cutting-edge seismic image capturing technologies i.e. 2D, 3D, 4D, it was not commercially viable to pursue exploration of shale gas and oil. Some hundred years-on, the U.S. is now the only country in the world to commercially and economically produce natural gas and oil in significant volumes from shale formations.

    Soon, plans are underway, to ship shale gas as LNG, to energy-starved nations in North and Southeast Asia, as well as Europe. Rise of unconventional fossils fuels in the United States, in the backdrop of energy-related irritants between Russia and Europe, is in the midst of changing the entire global energy landscape, and possibly in near future, it has the potential to seriously impact oil prices and realign the geo-political and geo-economic relations between West and the East. Countries such as China, Argentina, Brazil, Algeria, Saudi Arabia, Russia, India and Poland, believed to hold substantial volumes of shale gas and oil, are still at infancy stage in their pursuit to fully exploit these abundantly available, yet technically challenging fossil fuels. America on the other is / could use transfer of shale technology, as one of the bargaining chips, in dealing with strategic challenges posed by the international community.

    In the domestic context, I would say, the availability of right mix of technologies (hydraulic / acid fracturing and horizontal drilling), accessible roads and associated infrastructure, favorable shale E&P policy, conducive security climate in shale-prone areas, particularly Baluchistan and Pak-India border zones, as well as operational know-how / skills enhancement measures are widely believed as enabling factors, towards the successful exploration, development and ultimate production of Pakistan’s unconventional resource prospects.

    Pakistan having much of the basic shale development prerequisite in-place, shouldn’t face much hurdles in tapping its shale energy potential, albeit effectively tacking the existing security situation and creating a calm and stable political climate would surely pave way for commercial-scale production and utilization of shale gas and oil. It is widely understood, that these unconventional energy types, once fully explored and developed, maintains the potential to make Pakistan energy independent. Political – will and industry commitment, seemingly are the first few foundation-challenges to deal-with, in the road towards energy independence.


  • ishrat salim
    Aug 22, 2014 - 5:16PM


    There is nothing like free lunch, especially with the Chinese. They may be good friends, but they have never given any aid, but only loans on preferred interest rate.


  • Hamza Ali
    Aug 25, 2014 - 11:48AM

    1. everyone is right…
    2. why USA is helping us….strange…
    3. In Pakistan….we face one problem……we made rule(s)/policies crystal clear but never implemented……..who guarantee that by using Shale Gas Name companies/we will not extract gas from conventional reservoirs.
    4. who are the technical experts from pak/govt side….whether professional or MA (Islamic studies etc)Recommend

  • Gerard
    Sep 15, 2014 - 4:53PM

    @A H Nayyar:
    There is a lot of water in the sea, which is almost the same as the water in the tight sand and shale gas depots.
    good luck


  • A. H. Nayyar
    Sep 15, 2014 - 6:53PM

    @Gerard: and @Ali

    Any idea on the energy needed in and cost of transporting water from sea to the fracturing sites?


  • Dec 15, 2014 - 4:25PM

    There is lot of underground water in Cholistan and Thar. The water is saline , however perhaps it does not matter. The water can be taken downstream through canals under gravity to site where it is needed for shale gas horizontal shaft hydro cracking.

    The energy obtained from power houses can also be used for desalination, and ultimately agriculture and farming should be done in source regions using partially desalinated water.

    Whenever we have a power house , 40 to 60 % energy is wasted. This is good enough for steam generation for combined cycle or for desalination. The composite plan can give energy, clean water, agriculture, farms etc. Good planning can change the fate of the people in Shale gas rich area and subsequently for whole of Pakistan.

    US firms are the best in shale gas exploration. They have to be brought in first for feasibility and then for exploration. Sooner the better.


  • Shahid Younus
    Jan 3, 2015 - 9:05AM

    In mutual common interests the gesture “Thank you” does not exists.


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