One of the biggest questions in the resource business has been: where in the world will shale gas and oil catch on next?
One group of analysts last week pulled together the salient data on the matter. And came up with a few ideas.
The report from Lux Research suggests that Australia might be the next big thing in shale. A consequence of the country's well-developed infrastructure and resource-friendliness.
The interesting thing is, very few of the supporting factors raised by the analysts are geological. Instead, the group points to things like low population density in producing areas being a key Australian advantage. The report also suggests that Australia's long history of mining should make local populations much more receptive to shale drilling than in other parts of the world.
This indeed jives with the experience in many resource industries globally. Chile, for example, has become the world's top producer of copper largely because it has a huge geologic resource--located in a desert where almost no one is around to protest extraction.
Interestingly, the Lux report also names Chilean neighbour Argentina as a place where shale development might take off. Again, the area benefits from sparse population in producing areas like the Neuquen basin. As well as developed infrastructure from conventional oil plays here.
Such musings fly in the face of much of the work being done on shale. Which tends to focus solely on geological parameters like shale thickness, organics content, and fracturing.
Those are important, to be sure. But the message seems to be that would-be international shale producers should be looking just as hard at the roads, plants and people in the basins they're considering. These "soft" factors might be even more critical than the rocks themselves in making or breaking a new project.
Here's to the social side of science,
By. Dave Forest