Fracking: Is there really 100 years’ worth of natural gas beneath the United States? – Slate Magazine

Fracking: Is there really 100 years’ worth of natural gas beneath the United States? – Slate Magazine.

The Radio Ecoshock Show: Fracking Gas = Climate Crash

The Radio Ecoshock Show: Fracking Gas = Climate Crash.

FM London. Published Wednesdays.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Fracking Gas = Climate Crash


For years, governments, industry, and TV ads told us natural gas is the safe bridge fuel while we move away from dirty coal and oil.

Cornell University scientist Robert Howarth wondered “Is that true?”. When Howarth found no science to back up big claims for the gas industry, he and a team from Cornell went to work.

The results are startling. In the short-term, escaped methane from gas fracking threaten to tip us into catastrophic climate change. The total impact of the shale gas industry may be worse than coal. In the United States, where thousands and thousands of new gas wells are drilled, almost half of all greenhouse gas emissions may come from methane. The “natural” gas industry is the largest single source of methane emissions.

The frackers vent loads of gases for the first two weeks after drilling, before connecting pipes. They could collect (and sell) this “waste” methane (read “climate killer”) but don’t bother. Natural gas storage facilities also vent methane as part of their designed operation. Old leaking gas delivery systems complete the job.

Methane is rising in the atmosphere. New science from Dr. Drew Shindell shows in the first 20 years, methane is 105 times more powerful a greenhouse gas than CO2.

Even at 100 years, Shindell finds methane is combining with other air pollution to generate an impact 33 times more powerful than CO2. Not 21, as determined in the 1990’s by the IPCC. That old figure is still being used by industry and governments. Expect a change as Shindell becomes the new lead author of this section in the upcoming IPCC.

You must hear Dr. Robert Howarth explain the importance of new science on methane. he is the expert, I am not.

The industry insists we only calculate methane over a 100 year period. But the latest report from the International Energy Agency (generally a conservative source) says our climate future will be determined in the next 5 years. More new science suspects the burst of methane helped tip us into a mass extinction 250 million years ago.

The 20 year time frame for methane could be the jolt that tips other systems into positive feedback loops. Like igniting the peat in the Arctic. Or warming shallow seas enough to release frozen methane clathrates from the bottom (which started to happen last year). If either of those go, we are toast.

Robert Howarth has taken a lot of abuse for even daring to assemble a comprehensive look at the total greenhouse gas impact of the gas fracking industry, whether it is coal bed gas or shale gas. And we haven’t even discussed the fact fracking is now known to cause earthquakes, uses incredible amounts of fresh water, and risks polluting whole watersheds with a single leak of the mass toxic chemicals pumped underground.

The United Kingdom may be next. With gas production from the North Sea fields down by 25 percent, there is a public relations push to get lots of gas fracking in the UK. This may be the next big environmental battle there.

Fracking mania has hit Canada and Australia as well. Everyone needs to know what the latest science says.

Program includes 27 minute speech by Professor Robert Howarth of Cornell at ASPO USA 2011, November 2nd in Washington D.C. Recorded by Carl Etnier of Equal Time Radio, Vermont. My thanks to ASOP USA for this fine presentation.

Then a follow-up interview this week with Robert Howarth, to fill in his hurried climax of the speech – that methane emissions, when calculated over 20 years, using the new higher rate discovered by Drew Shindell – could add up to at least 44% of all greenhouse gas emissions in the United States! We discuss this, and the importance of a 2006 paper by Dr. James Hansen of NASA, on the importance of controlling methane emissions.

I covered that in 2006 here for blog entry, or download the audio here.

In 2006, I also put out a “Methane Primer” which is still helpful. Blog for that primer is here, and the audio for download here.

But now I’ll have to revisit that piece, since like the IPCC, I was told methane was only 21 times more powerful than CO2. The science moves so fast, it is already outdated just 5 years later.

Essentially, if we cannot control methane, we still lose the climate known over millenia, even if we could limit carbon dioxide emissions. Methane alone can tip us.

The natural gas industry, Howarth says, is the single largest source of methane in the U.S. Shale gas fracking makes that much, much worse.


We add an interview promised last week, with Samuel Labudde, about the billion dollar scam ripping off carbon credits.

Companies in China are threatening to release powerful greenhouse gases, unless these fake credits are continued. Ratepayers in Europe are being blackmailed.

LaBudde, a noted wildlife biologist, is also covering the climate beat for the Environmental Investigation Agency for the American branch of the organization.

To honor the craziness of gas fracking in Australia, the theme music this week is “My Water’s on Fire Tonight” written and performed by David Holmes, Andrew Bean, Niel Bekker. Australian compilation album: “Whole Lotta Frackin’ Going On

The lyrics in “My Water’s On Fire Tonight” is a product of Studio 20 NYU ( in collaboration with ( The song is based on ProPublica’s investigation on hydraulic fractured gas drilling (read the full investigation here:

Recording credit: Robert Howarth speech at ASPO recorded by Carl Etnier of Equal Time Radio, Vermont. Speech courtesy of ASPO USA.

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posted by Alex Smith at

Dominion seeks exports of Marcellus Shale gas –

Dominion seeks exports of Marcellus Shale gas –

The Oil Drum | U.S. Shale Gas: Less Abundance, Higher Cost

The Oil Drum | U.S. Shale Gas: Less Abundance, Higher Cost.

U.S. Shale Gas: Less Abundance, Higher Cost

Posted by aeberman on August 5, 2011 – 10:15am
Topic: Geology/Exploration
Tags: demand, economics, shale gas, supply [list all tags]

Arthur E. Berman and Lynn F. Pittinger

Lynn Pittinger is a consultant in petroleum engineering with 30 years of industry experience. He managed economic and engineering evaluations for Unocal and Occidental Oil & Gas, and has been an independent consultant since 2008. He has collaborated with Berman on all shale play evaluation projects since 2009.


Shale gas has become an important and permanent feature of U.S. energy supply. Daily production has increased from less than 1 billion cubic feet of gas per day (bcfd) in 2003, when the first modern horizontal drilling and fracture stimulation was used, to almost 20 bcfd by mid-2011.

There are, however, two major concerns at the center of the shale gas revolution:

• Despite impressive production growth, it is not yet clear that these plays are commercial at current prices because of the high capital costs of land and drilling and completion.

• Reserves and economics depend on estimated ultimate recoveries based on hyperbolic, or increasingly flattening, decline profiles that predict decades of commercial production. With only a few years of production history in most of these plays, this model has not been shown to be correct, and may be overly optimistic.

These are not purely technical topics for debate among petroleum professionals. The marketing of the shale gas phenomenon has been so effective that important policy and strategic decisions are being made based on as yet unproven assumptions about the abundance and low cost of these plays. The “Pickens Plan” seeks to get congressional approval for natural gas subsidies that might eventually lead to conversion of large parts of our vehicle fleet to run on natural gas. This might commit the U.S. to decades of natural gas exports at fixed prices in the face of scarcity and increasing prices in the domestic market. Similarly, companies have gotten permits from the government to transform liquefied natural gas import terminals into export facilities that would commit the U.S. to decades of large, fixed export volumes. If reserves are less and cost is more than many assume, these could be disastrous decisions.

Executive Summary

Our analysis indicates that industry reserves are over-stated by at least 100 percent based on detailed review of both individual well and group decline profiles for the Barnett, Fayetteville and Haynesville shale plays. The contraction of extensive geographic play regions into relatively small core areas greatly reduces the commercially recoverable reserves of the plays that we have studied.

The Barnett and Fayetteville shale plays have the most complete history of production and thus provide the best available analogues for shale gas plays with less complete histories. We recognize that all shale plays are different but, until more production history is available, the best assumption is that newer plays will develop along similar lines to these older plays. There is now far too much data in Barnett and Fayetteville to continue use of strong hyperbolic flattening decline models with b coefficients greater than 1.0.

Type curves that are commonly used to support strong hyperbolic flattening are misleading because they incorporate survivorship bias and rate increases from re-stimulations that require additional capital investment. Comparison of individual and group decline-curve analysis indicates that group or type-curve methods substantially over-estimate recoverable reserves.

Results to date in the Haynesville Shale play are disappointing, and will substantially underperform industry claims. In fact, it is difficult to understand how companies justify 125 rigs drilling in a play that has not yet demonstrated commercial viability at present reserve projections until gas prices exceed $8.68 per mmBu.

Full Report


Production Volume and Reserve Growth vs. Profitability
Entry of Major Oil Companies Into Shale Plays
Evaluation of Shale Gas Well Performance
Well Performance Evaluation Methodology
Barnett Well Performance
Fayetteville Well Performance
Haynesville Well Performance
Comparison to Operator Claims
Matching Aggregate Production Profiles for Shale Gas Plays
Summary and Conclusions

Impacts of Shale Gas and Shale Oil Extraction on the Environment and on Human Health (application/pdf Object).

Impacts of Shale Gas and Shale Oil Extraction on the Environment and on Human Health–European Parliament

This study discusses the possible impacts of hydraulic fracturing on the
environment and on human health. Quantitative data and qualitative impacts
are taken from US experience since shale gas extraction in Europe still is in its
infancy, while the USA have more than 40 years of experience already having
drilled more than 50,000 wells. Greenhouse gas emissions are also assessed
based on a critical review of existing literature and own calculations. European
legislation is reviewed with respect to hydraulic fracturing activities and
recommendations for further work are given. The potential gas resources and
future availability of shale gas is discussed in face of the present conventional
gas supply and its probable future development.

 There is no comprehensive directive providing for a European mining law. A publicly
available, comprehensive and detailed analysis of the European regulatory
framework concerning shale gas and tight oil extraction is not available and should
be developed.
 The current EU regulatory framework concerning hydraulic fracturing, which is the
core element in shale gas and tight oil extraction, has a number of gaps. Most
importantly, the threshold for Environmental Impact Assessments to be carried out
on hydraulic fracturing activities in hydrocarbon extraction is set far above any
potential industrial activities of this kind, and thus should be lowered substantially.
 The coverage of the water framework Directive should be re-assessed with special
focus on fracturing activities and their possible impacts on surface water.
 In the framework of a Life Cycle Analysis (LCA), a thorough cost/benefit analysis
could be a tool to assess the overall benefits for society and its citizens. A
harmonized approach to be applied throughout EU27 should be developed, based on
which responsible authorities can perform their LCA assessments and discuss them
with the public.
 It should be assessed whether the use of toxic chemicals for injection should be
banned in general. At least, all chemicals to be used should be disclosed publicly,
the number of allowed chemicals should be restricted and its use should be
monitored. Statistics about the injected quantities and number of projects should be
collected at European level.
 Regional authorities should be strengthened to take decisions on the permission of
projects which involve hydraulic fracturing. Public participation and LCAassessments
should be mandatory in finding these decisions.
 Where project permits are granted, the monitoring of surface water flows and air
emissions should be mandatory.
 Statistics on accidents and complaints should be collected and analysed at European
level. Where projects are permitted, an independent authority should collect and
review complaints.
 Because of the complex nature of possible impacts and risks to the environment and
to human health of hydraulic fracturing consideration should be given to developing
a new directive at European level regulating all issues in this area comprehensively

The Great Natural Gas Export Swindle

Press Action ::: The Great Natural Gas Export Swindle.

Living on Earth: Natural Gas and Greenhouse Gasses

Living on Earth: Natural Gas and Greenhouse Gasses.

Natural gas industry strikes back at New York Times article |

Natural gas industry strikes back at New York Times article |

Natural gas industry strikes back at New York Times article

Aubrey McClendon, chief executive officer of Oklahoma City-based Chesapeake Energy Corp., sent an email to employees in which he called the Times article “inaccurate and misleading.”

BY RANDY ELLIS AND JAY F. MARKS    Comment on this article 32

Published: June 28, 2011


Weekend New York Times articles that questioned whether the productivity and economic potential of shale gas has been overhyped by industry officials created a furor Monday among oil and gas executives as well as academic officials who study the industry.

photo - In this April 23, 2010 photo, a Chesapeake Energy natural gas well site is seen near Burlington, Pa., in Bradford County.  (AP Photo/Ralph Wilson)

In this April 23, 2010 photo, a Chesapeake Energy natural gas well site is seen near Burlington, Pa., in Bradford County. (AP Photo/Ralph Wilson)


More Info

At a glance

Oklahoma congressmen comment

Two members of Oklahoma’s congressional delegation commented Monday on Sunday’s shale gas story in The New York Times.

Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Tulsa:

“Here in Oklahoma, natural gas development has led to a tremendous economic boost and the creation of good paying jobs. That is a fact. Everyone knows that The New York Times has an anti-fossil fuel perspective. Even the reporter admits that the article is based on information provided by those who are apparently working to shut down drilling. Don’t be surprised if a vastly different picture emerges from a more balanced and responsible news outlet.”

Rep. John Sullivan, R-Tulsa:

“It’s a biased story that completely ignores the vast reserves of natural gas that has been uncovered across the U.S — we are in the midst of a shale gas revolution that has the potential to be a game changer for American energy security. We have over a 125-year supply of natural gas and each field they find is larger than the last. Reports indicate that our nation has more natural gas than Saudi Arabia does oil. It’s crazy to continue relying on OPEC oil when we have a cheaper, cleaner more abundant supply of American made natural gas sitting right under our feet.”

CHRIS CASTEEL, Washington Bureau

“Are you telling me some reporter at The New York Times knows more about the natural gas business than 25 companies and their engineers? I don’t think so,” said Texas billionaire T. Boone Pickens, who has amassed much of his fortune through his ability to analyze and predict developments and price movements in the oil and gas industry.

Aubrey McClendon, chief executive officer of Oklahoma City-based Chesapeake Energy Corp., sent an email to employees in which he called the Times article “inaccurate and misleading.”

“The Times story was obviously motivated by an anti-natural gas agenda. It is telling that the reporter chose not to interview a single reliable source and instead selectively quoted emails from unnamed sources or well-known industry critics dating back to as early as 2007 to invent a series of inaccurate and misleading allegations,” McClendon said.

“I wanted you to know that this reporter’s claim of impending scarcity of natural gas supply contradicts the facts and the scientific extrapolation of those facts by the most sophisticated reservoir engineers and geoscientists in the world,” McClendon said.

“It is also ludicrous to allege that shale gas wells are underperforming as we sit awash in natural gas, with natural gas prices less than half of what they averaged in 2008,” he said. I also note that Chesapeake and other shale gas producers are routinely beating our production forecasts. How can shale wells be underperforming if shale gas companies are beating their production forecasts and as U.S. natural gas production has recently surged to record highs?”

G. Randy Keller, director of the Oklahoma Geological Survey which investigates the state’s land, water, mineral and energy resources, was particularly incensed by Times quotes from unnamed industry insiders and analysts that compared shale plays to Ponzi schemes and said some were questioning whether companies were “intentionally, and even illegally, overstating the productivity of their wells and the size of their reserves.”

“I just don’t think any of these companies deserved to be treated like that,” Keller said. “It sure had an awful lot of hatchet job to it and was a little short on what I would consider facts.

“There are promoters in every business and I know somebody somewhere has overstated something, but to suggest this is a big problem is crazy,” he said.

Keller said he talks with lots of industry officials in the course of his work and hasn’t heard anybody talk about inflating reserves.

Keller said the only negative talk he has heard is that natural gas prices have been so low lately that some companies are right on the edge of making money in the short term.

Keller said he’s not overly concerned about that because commodity prices like natural gas and oil rise and fall over time and natural gas prices currently are extremely cheap when compared to oil that can produce the same amount of energy.

“I’m not a financier, but I own stock in several of those companies, and I’m not looking to sell it,” he said.

Harold Hamm, chief executive officer of Enid-based Continental Resources, said he had not read the article in depth, but defended the industry’s shale gas projections.

“I believe these reserves are real,” he said.

Hamm said he chose to focus his company on oil exploration because he believed the abundance of natural gas reserves would result in an oversaturated market. And he said that is what has happened with the shale gas boom.

“As a geologist, I believe natural gas is ubiquitous,” he said. “It’s everywhere.”

ExxonMobil, the largest natural gas producer in the United States, blasted The New York Times’ journalistic standards in a blog entry Monday.

“The Times questions the value of our country’s vast shale gas resources with little more than anonymous sourcing, two-year-old emails and analysis unsupported by fact,” the blog said. “Ironically, author Ian Urbina did not call ExxonMobil, the largest natural gas producer in the United States, for comment. You would think an investigative journalist for one of the world’s great newspapers would have been curious to know why the world’s largest publicly traded energy company has invested billions of dollars in a so-called ‘Ponzi scheme.’ Of course we’re doing no such thing, no matter how hard the article works to imply otherwise.”

Melanie Kenderdine, executive director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Energy Initiative, said her group currently projects that roughly 500 trillion cubic feet of shale gas are recoverable at costs of less than $7 per thousand cubic feet.

Costs vary greatly from one geological formation to another and even within the same geological formation, she said.

“Even with uncertainty, there is a substantial amount of shale gas in the U.S. at relatively affordable costs,” she said.

In an article that appeared in Sunday’s New York Times, the writer noted that the federal government’s Energy Information Administration has steadily increased its projections of domestic natural gas supplies. However, he quoted unnamed officials within the agency as questioning whether there was an “irrational exuberance” around shale gas that may have left the shale industry set up for failure.”

Asked about the article Monday, federal Energy Information Administration officials forwarded a response they had made to a New York Times inquiry that said agency officials considered discussions between staff members concerning estimates of recoverable shale gas to be part of a “healthy analytical process.”

“While resource estimates will continue to be updated as new information becomes available, experience suggests that EIA has been more likely to understate rather than overstate the contribution of unconventional oil and natural gas resources in recent Annual Energy Outlook Reference cases,” the response said.


June 25: Wall Street Journal “Facts about Fracking”

June 25: New York Times article “Insiders Sound an Alarm Amid Natural Gas Rush”

June 26: Chesapeake’ Aubrey McClendon responds on Facebook “An email to Chesapeake employees”

June 26: “Why we need to calm the natural gas frenzy”

June 26: The Associated Press “Gushers highlight gas potential of Pa.’s Marcellus Shale”

June 26: Blog: Not Hot Air “New York Times no Wiki Leaks of shale”

June 27: John Hanger. Facts of the Day blog “Barnett hale Production Now Record High: Facts not fit to print in NYT”

June 27: Huffington Post “Lawmakers urge Obama to pursue more Natural Gas exploration”

June 27: New York Times “SEC Shift Leads to Worries of Overestimation of Reserves”

June 27: Forbes “Green Tech Blog: Analysis”

June 27: Fuel Fix “Barnett Shale Still Has Lots of Life”

June 27: Council on Foreign Relations “Is Shale Gas a Ponzi Scheme?”

June 27: Energy In Depth “NYT’s ‘Dewey-Defeats-Truman’ Moment on Shale?”

June 27: CNBC “Deborah Rodgers: Shale Companies’ Balance Sheets Raise ‘Red Flags'”

June 27: Exxon Mobil Perspectives “Don’t facts matter anymore?'”



Injection well plans still have hurdles – | News, Sports, Jobs, Community Information – The Times Observer

Injection well plans still have hurdles – | News, Sports, Jobs, Community Information – The Times Observer.

Behind Veneer, Doubt on Future of Natural Gas –

Behind Veneer, Doubt on Future of Natural Gas –

New York Times
Drilling Down

Behind Veneer, Doubt on Future of Natural Gas

Kathy Chruscielski

A drilling operation in Texas. In documents, Energy Information Administration officials voice skepticism.

Published: June 26, 2011

Drilling Down

Widespread Skepticism

Articles in this series will examine the risks of natural gas drilling and efforts to regulate this rapidly growing industry.

Complete Series »


  • “The potential for natural gas is enormous,” President Obama said in a speech this year, having cited it as an issue on which Democrats and Republicans can agree.

The Department of Energy boasts in news releases about helping jump-start the boom in drilling by financing some research that made it possible to tap the gas trapped in shale formations deep underground.

In its annual forecasting reports, the United States Energy Information Administration, a division of the Energy Department, has steadily increased its estimates of domestic supplies of natural gas, and investors and the oil and gas industry have repeated them widely to make their case about a prosperous future.

But not everyone in the Energy Information Administration agrees. In scores of internal e-mails and documents, officials within the Energy Information Administration, or E.I.A., voice skepticism about the shale gas industry.

One official says the shale industry may be “set up for failure.” “It is quite likely that many of these companies will go bankrupt,” a senior adviser to the Energy Information Administration administrator predicts. Several officials echo concerns raised during previous bubbles, in housing and in technology stocks, for example, that ended in a bust.

Energy Information Administration employees also explain in e-mails and documents, copies of which were obtained by The New York Times, that industry estimates might overstate the amount of gas that companies can affordably get out of the ground.

They discuss the uncertainties about how long the wells will be productive as well as the high prices some companies paid during the land rush to lease mineral rights. They also raise concerns about the unpredictability of shale gas drilling.

One senior Energy Information Administration official describes an “irrational exuberance” around shale gas. An internal Energy Information Administration document says companies have exaggerated “the appearance of shale gas well profitability,” are highlighting the performance of only their best wells and may be using overly optimistic models for projecting the wells’ productivity over the next several decades.

While there are environmental and economic benefits to natural gas compared with other fossil fuels, its widespread popularity as an energy source is relatively new. As a result, it has not received the same level of scrutiny, according to some environmentalists and energy economists.

The Energy Information Administration e-mails indicate that some of these difficult questions are being raised.

“Am I just totally crazy, or does it seem like everyone and their mothers are endorsing shale gas without getting a really good understanding of the economics at the business level?” an energy analyst at the Energy Information Administration wrote in an April 27 e-mail to a colleague.

Another e-mail expresses similar doubts. “I agree with your concerns regarding the euphoria for shale gas and oil,” wrote a senior official in the forecasting division of the Energy Information Administration in an April 13 e-mail to a colleague at the administration.

“We might be in a ‘gold rush’ wherein a few folks have developed ‘monster’ wells,” he wrote, “so everyone assumes that all the wells will be ‘monsters.’ ”

The Energy Information Administration’s annual reports are widely followed by investors, companies and policy makers because they are considered scientifically rigorous and independent from industry. They also inform legislators’ initiatives. Congress, for example, has been considering major subsidies to promote vehicles fueled by natural gas and cutting taxes for the industry.

In any organization as big as the Energy Information Administration, with its 370 or so employees, there inevitably will be differences of opinion, particularly in private e-mails shared among colleagues. A spokesman for the agency said that it stands by its reports, and that it has been clear about the uncertainties of shale gas production.

“One guiding principle that we employ is, ‘look at the data,’ ” said Michael Schaal, director of the Office of Petroleum, Natural Gas and Biofuels Analysis within the Energy Information Administration. “It is clear the data shows that shale gas has become a significant source of domestic natural gas supply.”

But the doubts and concerns expressed in the e-mails and correspondence obtained by The Times are noteworthy because they are shared by many employees, some of them in senior roles. The documents and e-mails, which were provided to The Times by industry consultants, federal energy officials and Congressional researchers, show skepticism about shale gas economics, sometimes even from senior agency officials.

The e-mails were provided by several people to The Times under the condition that the names of those sending and receiving them would not be used.

Some of the e-mails suggest frustrations among the staff members in their attempt to push for a more accurate discussion of shale gas. One federal analyst, describing an Energy Information Administration publication on shale gas, complained that the administration shared the industry’s optimism. “It seems that science is pointing in one direction and industry PR is pointing in another,” wrote the analyst about shale gas drilling in an e-mail. “We still have to present the middle, even if the middle neglects to point out the strengths of scientific evidence over PR.”

The Energy Information Administration, with its mission of providing “independent and impartial energy information to promote sound policymaking” and “efficient markets,” was created in response to the energy crisis of the 1970s because lawmakers believed that sound data could help the country avoid similar crises in the future.

As a protection from industry or political pressure, the Energy Information Administration’s reports, by law, are supposed to be independent and do not require approval by any other arm of government.

Its administrator, Richard G. Newell, who announced this month his plans to resign to take a job at Duke University, has hailed the prospects for shale gas, calling it a “game changer” in the United States energy mix. “The energy outlook for natural gas has changed dramatically over the past several years,” Mr. Newell told the Natural Gas Roundtable, a nonprofit group tied to the American Gas Association. “The most significant story is the transformative role played by shale gas.”

A number of factors have also helped create more interest in shale gas. The nuclear disaster in Japan in March has focused attention on the promise of natural gas as a safer energy source.

And last year, as energy market analysts warned about tougher federal regulations on oil and coal, particularly after the BP oil spill and the Massey coal mining accident, they also pointed to natural gas as a more attractive investment.

But a look at the Energy Information Administration’s methods raises questions about its independence from energy companies, since the industry lends a helping hand to the government to compile those bullish reports.

The Energy Information Administration, for example, relies on research from outside consultants with ties to the industry. And some of those consultants pull the data they supply to the government from energy company news releases, according to Energy Information Administration e-mails. Projections about future supplies of natural gas are based not just on science but also some guesswork and modeling.

Two of the primary contractors, Intek and Advanced Resources International, provided shale gas estimates and data for the Energy Information Administration’s major annual forecasting reports on domestic and foreign oil and gas resources. Both of them have major clients in the oil and gas industry, according to corporate tax records from the contractors. The president of Advanced Resources, Vello A. Kuuskraa, is also a stockholder and board member of Southwestern Energy, an energy company heavily involved in drilling for gas in the Fayetteville shale formation in Arkansas.

The contractors said they did not see any conflict of interest. “Firstly, the report is an extremely transparent assessment,” said Tyler Van Leeuwen, an analyst at Advanced Resources, adding that many experts agreed with its conclusions and that by identifying promising areas, the report heightened competition for Southwestern.

Intek verified that it produced data for Energy Information Administration reports but declined to comment on questions about whether, given its ties to industry, it had a conflict of interest.

Some government watchdog groups, however, faulted the Energy Information Administration for not maintaining more independence from industry.

“E.I.A.’s heavy reliance on industry for their analysis fundamentally undermines the agency’s mission to provide independent expertise,” said Danielle Brian, the executive director of the Project on Government Oversight, a group that investigates federal agencies and Congress.

“The Chemical Safety Board and the National Transportation Safety Board both show that government agencies can conduct complex, niche analysis without being captured or heavily relying upon industry expertise,” Ms. Brian added, referring to two independent federal agencies that conduct investigations of accidents.

These sorts of concerns have also led to complaints within the administration itself.

In an April 27 e-mail, a senior petroleum geologist who works for the Energy Information Administration wrote that upper management relied too heavily on outside contractors and used “incomplete/selective and all too often unreal data,” much of which comes from industry news releases

“E.I.A., irrespective of what or how many ‘specialty’ contractors are hired, is NOT TECHNICALLY COMPETENT to estimate the undiscovered resources of anything made by Mother Nature, period,” he wrote.

Energy officials have also quietly criticized in internal e-mails the department’s shale gas primer, a source of information for the public, saying it may be “on the rosy side.”

The primer is written by the Ground Water Protection Council, a research group that, according to tax records, is partly financed by industry.

The Ground Water Protection Council declined to respond to questions.

Tiffany Edwards, a spokeswoman for the Department of Energy, said that the shale gas primer was never intended as a comprehensive review and that further study was continuing.

Asked about the views expressed in the internal e-mails, Mr. Schaal says his administration has been very explicit in acknowledging the uncertainties surrounding shale gas development.

He said news reports and company presentations were included among a range of information sources used in Energy Information Administration studies. Though the administration depends on contractors with specialized expertise, he added, it conforms with all relevant federal rules.

And while production from shale gas has not slowed down and may not any time soon, he said, a lively debate continues within the administration about shale gas prospects.


Robbie Brown contributed reporting from Atlanta. Kitty Bennett contributed research.