Hop Up On My Soapbox

In an article I read today written by a Dow Jones reporter, it said:
“Many analysts now see oil shale – an unconventional form of oil contained in difficult-to-extract reservoirs – as a serious rival to crude.”

Um, excuse me, but the oil from shale is just as crude as crude oil from conventional resources. It’s just trapped in tighter rock.

And here’s another one I saw in the newspaper a couple of weeks ago:
“For more than a century, Pennsylvania has required landowners to consider oil and gas rights separate from more general ‘mineral rights’ when transferring ownership of resources beneath the surface of their property. The defendants in the title dispute argued shale gas is different and should be considered part of the mineral rights because it is contained inside rock.”

Um, excuse me again, but all oil and gas is contained inside rock. It’s not in underground caverns – wouldn’t that make our jobs easy! – but in the pore spaces of the rock, be it sandstone, limestone, or shale.

When I went for my first chemist job interview at the Texaco Research Labs in 1980, I had no idea petroleum was located in the porosity of sedimentary rock. I was amazed to learn that during
my interview, and I exclaimed, “Gosh, that must be difficult to get out of there!” That is why Texaco wanted to hire someone, the PhD interviewer said, to help them devise new and better ways to get that oil out of there. “I’m in!” I said enthusiastically – and I’ve been in it ever since.

Folks, we need to do a much better job of educating the public about what crude oil and natural gas are, where they are found, and how we get those hydrocarbons out of there. I think we need to start with the “lay press,” those reporters who don’t write for oil industry trade journals. Those who do are usually geoscientists or engineers themselves who have worked in the industry and know what’s what and who’s who. Most of these people are good friends of mine (FOJs = Friends of Jeanne) and I see them at all the usual conferences, such as the annual SPE meeting later this month in Denver.

But there’s a whole lot more “lay press” people who keep the general public informed about our industry, and they are comparatively clueless. Yet, they have a big effect on public opinion due to their media scope and reach. These are the ones on whom our industry should focus our education efforts, because they, in turn, educate so many more through their journalism.

And I’d like to add a line to the Hippocratic Oath for Journalists proposed by George Monbiot of The Guardian (http://www.monbiot.com/2011/07/11/a-hippocratic-oath-for-journalists/):
“… We will recognize and understand the power we wield and how it originates, and we will be certain we know and understand the true facts before we report them to the public.”

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