Category: Energy Security Sigils (Scan and Monitor)

The Shale Oil and Gas Security Sigils

shaleThe Shale Oil and Gas Security Sigils is part of The Sigils, a series of daily papers scanning the horizon for weak signals related to various issues relevant to the security of societies, polities, nations and citizens. They use Paper.Li as curation platform.

Although technological experimentations to extract shale gas and oil started in the 19th century, it is only in the 1980s and 1990s they started being commercially exploited on a relatively large-scale in the U.S., and in 2005 that production truly meaningfully took off, first  in the Barnett Shale with shale gas (EIA, 2011). Since then, production of both shale oil and shale gas is seen as a game-changer, already operative in the U.S., potential in those countries with reserves. Shale fuels remain controversial, notably considering the various environmental risks, the social opposition and distrust, the uncertainty regarding recoverable reserves, the evolution of technology and regulations, and the opposite interests of different actors.

shale oil, shale gas, fracking, peak oil The rising concern about shale fuels and the way they are produced, “fracking” (properly “hydraulic fracturing”, the technology used to recover shale gas and oil) is perfectly exemplified by the results obtained in volume with Google search for the years 2004, 2008 and 2012. The Google Trends curves below (representing percentages, not quantities) also underline concern about fracking. There, however, interest in shale gas increases more than concern for shale oil (also probably because “shale gas” tends to cover all shale related fuels) while peak oil becomes less trendy. This also reminds us that information and analysis are and will be one of the arena where the power struggles for or against shale fuels takes place.

shale oil, shale gas, fracking, peak oil

Considering the crucial importance of energy for our civilization and its impact on the environment (this needs to be reminded as the curves below would be dwarfed by other search terms like “baseball,” “football,” or “Oscars”), it is necessary to keep abreast of developments in this area to be able to anticipate potential evolutions in this fluid and volatile context, as well as to read documents from all sources if one wants to obtain, in fine, as objective as possible a judgement on the future.

This Shale Oil and Gas Security Sigils is a contribution to the scanning and monitoring of this specific issue. They can be read, as the other Sigils on Paper.Li (click on the image below for access).

shale oil, shale gas, fracking


EIA, Review of Emerging Resources: U.S. Shale Gas and Shale Oil Plays, 2011.

Featured image: Cozy Dell Formation — Giant shale rip-up clast at the base of a high-density turbidite. In the Topatopa Mountains, Ventura County, Southern California.By Mikesclark (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

The Coal Sigils

The Coal Sigils, is the first of The Sigils dedicated to energy security, a series of daily papers scanning the horizon for weak signals related to various issues relevant to the security of societies, polities, nations and citizens. They use Paper.Li as curation platform.

Why a Sigils focused on coal?

According to a new release by the IEA,

“As of March 2012, approximately 40% of the world’s electricity needs were provided by coal. Yes, coal is the second source of primary energy after oil.”

Furthermore, considering the progressive or rapid abandonment of nuclear energy, as in Germany or in Japan, which shut off its last reactor on 5 May 2012, coal could very well see an increase in demand, at least for a few years, until alternative energy mix are implemented.

Besides electricity, coal is also used in steel and aluminium production, in the manufacture of cement, increasingly to produce transport fuels from liquefied or gasified coal (Survey of Energy Resources, Nov 2010, p.3).

The use of coal varies according to regions, with a demand increase forecast in Asia, and, on the contrary, a diminution in the West (without considering the nuclear free policies impact).

The environmental and health impacts of coal mining, processing and usage (World Coal Association, 2005, 2012) make it a highly questionable source of energy, although many efforts are made to struggle against them.

Last but not least, data regarding proved reserves seem to be controversial, which could create surprise,* while the unequal distribution of coal exports (90% originate from six countries: Indonesia, Australia, Russia, South Africa, Colombia, and the United States) create the potential for tension (IEA 2012).

All those points deserve monitoring if we are to avoid surprise and develop proper foresight in energy security.

Read The Coal Sigils daily.


*Recent surveys tend to emphasise plentiful reserves. However, the November 2010 Survey of Energy Resources,  by the World Energy Council details the difficulties surrounding the gathering of data and related assessments, pp.1-3. Other estimates on potential Peak Coal can be found, among others in Energy Watch Group, Coal: resources and future production, 2007; Kavalov, B.  and S. D. Peteves, The Future of Coal, Institute for Energy (IFE), prepared for European Commission Joint Research Centre, 2007. Slides; Vernon, Chris  Coal – The Roundup, The Oil Drum Europe, 2007; Li, Minqi, Peak Coal and China, The Oil Drum, July 4, 2011. See also, Rutledge, David, “Estimating Long-Term World Coal Production with Logit and Probit Transforms,” International Journal of Coal Geology, Jan 2011; US National Academy of Sciences, Coal – Report in Brief, 2007.


Cusick, Daniel  and ClimateWire, “Asian Demand Forecasts Boom for Coal,” Scientific American, May 14, 2012.

IEA, FAQs: Coal, 2012

The Associated Press, “Japan shuts off nuclear power as thousands celebrate – Island nation is without electricity from nuclear power for first time in four decades,” May 5, 2012 – CBC News.

World Coal Association, The coal resource a comprehensive overview of coal, 2005

World Coal Association, Coal – Energy for Sustainable Development, 2012.

World Energy Council, among many publications, Survey of Energy Resources, November 2010.


Charbon après lavage by By Apphim (Charbon) [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

Shan sigil by Vincent Ramos (Dessin personnel manuscrit d’un caractère chinois dans une graphie ancienne. Publié sous licence <a href=”/wiki/GFDL” title=”GFDL”>GFDL</a>. Cette image est aussi présente dans mon site web, sous copyright).