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The EROI of Conventional Canadian Natural Gas Production

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Abstract

Canada was the world’s third largest natural gas producer in 2008, with 98% of its gas being produced by conventional, tight gas, and coal bed methane wells in Western Canada. Natural gas production in Western Canada peaked in 2001 and remained nearly flat until 2006 despite more than quadrupling the drilling rate. Canada seems to be one of many counter examples to the idea that oil and gas production can rise with sufficient investment. This study calculated the Energy Return on Energy Invested and Net Energy of conventional natural gas and oil production in Western Canada by a variety of methods to explore the energy dynamics of the peaking process. All these methods show a downward trend in EROI during the last decade. Natural gas EROI fell from 38:1 in 1993 to 15:1 at the peak of drilling in 2005. The drilling intensity for natural gas was so high that net energy delivered to society peaked in 2000–2002, while production did not peak until 2006. The industry consumed all the extra energy it delivered to maintain the high drilling effort. The inability of a region to increase net energy may be the best definition of peak production. This increase in energy consumption reduces the total energy provided to society and acts as a contracting pressure on the overall economy as the industry consumes greater quantities of labor, steel, concrete and fuel. It appears that energy production from conventional oil and gas in Western Canada has peaked and entered permanent decline.

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