Technology giving new nations a shot as energy producers

 

McClatchy Foreign Staff

New technologies to unlock energy below the earth’s surface could transform the global energy picture, allowing a handful of nations not ordinarily thought of as energy producers to emerge.

That’s because shale formations holding natural gas and oil are more widely spread around the globe than traditional oil reservoirs, broadening access to energy.

“Ten years from now, Poland will be a winner. Bulgaria could be a winner, Romania and Lithuania, too,” said David L. Goldwyn, founder of Goldwyn Global Strategies, an energy intelligence consultancy in Washington.

Natural gas and oil lie under the eastern Mediterranean Sea, turning Cyprus, Israel, Lebanon and even the Gaza Strip into potential energy producers.

Africa’s energy picture is also in flux. While big suppliers like Nigeria and Angola on Africa’s west coast reel from dropping U.S. demand for their crude, Mozambique in East Africa is poised to tap into huge offshore natural gas reserves that could prove transformative.

“Five years from now, they are going to be a major (liquid natural gas) export power to the Indian Ocean. Mozambique will be the hub of East African gas,” Goldwyn said, adding that neighboring Tanzania also will benefit from cheaper energy.

“That whole region will see access to electricity, cheaper product prices . . . and they’ll have the opportunity for some terrific prosperity,” Goldwyn said.

In Latin America, Argentina has the world’s second largest shale gas reserves. But unlike Colombia and Brazil to the north, nations that have opened the doors to foreign investment, Argentina will have trouble raising the tens of billions of dollars it needs to invest following its 2001 default on the financial markets.

Other obstacles can arise. Entrenched nationalism in Mexico means most production is in the hands of the state giant, Petroleos Mexicanos, which has limited capital and experience to tap into the world’s sixth largest shale gas reserves.

“Mexico doesn’t know how to do it,” said Miriam Grunstein Dickter, an energy expert at the Center for Research and Teaching of Economics in Mexico City.

Mexico’s Congress is in the final weeks of debating a proposal to open up the energy sector to foreign investment in risk-sharing contracts that could spur exploration and production in deep Gulf of Mexico waters and in shale formations near the border with Texas.

Even factors like lack of water and poor roads can hinder development, said Peter Kiernan, lead energy analyst for the London-based Economist Intelligence Unit, signaling the case of Poland.

“The shale gas reserves are in rural areas where the roads are very narrow. There’s a lot of stress on the roads from delivering the thousands of truck trips that you need to transport the fracking fluids back and forth,” Kiernan said.

While some nations stumble in unleashing their potential, others don’t.

Colombia, which in the 1990s experienced a decline in production, has sharply reversed its fortunes, opening the door to new companies. Half of new petroleum reserves discovered last year were from companies new to the country, Energy Minister Federico Renjifo Velez said. Shale oil also appears abundant.

“Colombia has an enormous energy capacity,” Renjifo boasted.

Mark C. Thurber, associate head of the Program on Energy and Sustainable Development at Stanford University, said shale oil and gas development worldwide, even if still on a small scale, has the potential to level the global energy playing field.

“These shale resources are distributed more widely,” he said. “There are implications to having things more evenly spread around. From an economic perspective, it makes it harder to hold cartel power.”

Email: tjohnson@mcclatchydc.com; Twitter: @timjohnson4

Read more World Wires stories from the Miami Herald

  •  
Afghan President Hamid Karzai, center, speaks in  front of local and international media representatives as presidential candidates Abdullah Abdullah, right, and Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, left , listen during the Independence Day ceremony in Kabul, Afghanistan, Tuesday, Aug. 19, 2014. King Amanullah won the country's independency from Britain in 1919.

    Afghanistan orders NYT reporter to leave country

    Afghanistan ordered a New York Times journalist Wednesday to leave the country in 24 hours and barred him from returning over a story he wrote saying that a group of officials were considering seizing power because of the impasse over who won its recent presidential election, the attorney general's office said in a statement.

  •  
FILE  This is a  Saturday May 8 2010 file image taken from video of a column of ash rising from Iceland's Eyjafjallajokul volcano. It was reported Tueday Aug. 19, 2014 that thousands of small intense earthquakes are rocking Iceland amid concerns that one of the country’s volcanoes may be close to erupting.   Iceland has raised its aviation alert level for the risk of a possible volcanic eruption to orange _ the second-most severe level. The alert is worrisome because of the chaos that followed the April 2010 eruption of Eyjafjallajokul, when more than 100,000 flights were cancelled because volcanic ash floating in the atmosphere is considered an aviation safety hazard. (AP Photo/ APTN) **

    Tourists evacuated amid Iceland volcano concerns

    Authorities have evacuated tourists from an area north of Iceland's largest glacier amid increased seismic activity around a volcano in the past few days.

  • UAE ruler approves sweeping counter-terrorism law

    The ruler of the United Arab Emirates has approved a sweeping new counter-terrorism law that strengthens existing laws against money laundering, while also expanding penalties to include the death penalty, life imprisonment and fines of up to $27 million.

Miami Herald

Join the
Discussion

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category