Marcellus Shale Wordplay: Drastic Cut OR Sharp Increase?

Have you heard about the adjustment to the estimates of how much natural gas is within the Marcellus Shale formation? Depending on what media outlet you listened to, the estimate just went WAY up or WAY down… but everyone’s using the same USGS report, so how could that be? Read on!

Any good dog knows that when you hear any news report involving statistics, you’d better perk up your ears and put your thinking caps on. This was made SO evident to me yesterday…

After my master got home from class, he asked me if I’d heard of the USGS report that sharply increased the estimated recoverable gas from a mere 2 trillion cubic feet to a whopping 84 trillion cubic feet.

I told him, “No, but I did read online in the Times that Ian Urbina reported about the Marcellus reserve’s estimate being slashed by 80% based on that same USGS report!”

So… what the heck is going on here? Let’s take ches a peake at the range of available data, and put an exxon the spot where the truth is… Below is a chart with four of the most influential Marcellus Shale estimates of the past 9 years.

Two are from the USGS. Notice that one is low and one is high.

One is from Terry Engelder, the man whose name we prefer not to mention because he publicly sold out academic integrity on NPR when describing his intentions for being on the Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission.

The other one is from the federal Energy Information Administration, note that it is the highest estimate…

Influential Estimates of Recoverable Marcellus Shale Natural Gas

So, those are the numbers… and it’s not contradictory to say that the USGS upped the ante AND also at the same time to say the most recent Marcellus Estimate is drastically lower than the 2008 estimate by Engelder and the 2011 estimate by the Energy Info Administration… it’s all just a question of how you want the headline to sound!

So, “Marcellus Estimate Increased” means that the author is pro-gas because they went back to 2002 to show an increase, stripping the context of the past 9 years, and totally ignoring the fact that the current USGS estimate is actually much lower than the 2008 & 2011 estimates.

And “Marcellus Estimate Decreased” means that the author is situating the facts within the relevant context: overall estimates of Marcellus yeild. They could be anti-gas, or they could simply be using the most recent comparisons rather than going back to 2002.

And, of course, my position? 100% Ada, 100% of the time!


To link to the Times article, click here. To link to the federal Energy Info Admin, clear here. To link to Terry Engelder’s estimates (news media), click here.

About adamaecompton

just a three-legged rescue dog, bloggin about critical citizenship, the environment, and all sorts of literacy.
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7 Responses to Marcellus Shale Wordplay: Drastic Cut OR Sharp Increase?

  1. Jan Kennedy says:

    Thanks for the explanation. I really think it’s a concerted effort to confuse the public.

  2. Marcellus math is tough to grasp – even tougher to graph. And it can get really frack-tious down in the numbers pit.

  3. Carlos Briones says:

    Whether you love or hate Shale gas, this is easy to explain. The different numbers represent different things.

    Engelder & EIA are using “Gas In Place” while USGS is using “Technologically Recoverable Reserves”.

    It’s possible that both are right – that out of the 400TCF of gas in place, 84TCF may be technologically recoverable.

    However – it is nearly a certainty that all the numbers are wrong. Neither USGS, Engelder nor EIA are making any account for the underlying Utica formation.

    You may be right that Engelder & EIA have an interest in presenting an optimistic viewpoint.

    It would have been easy for Ian Urbina to explain these differences. Instead, he instead chose to use the “slashing official estimates” language to give weight to his idea that shale gas is just a ponzi scheme.

    Going from 2TCF to 84TCF hardly seems like a slash. But that would be inconsistent with Ian Urbina’s narrative.

    • Hey there, Your comment points out the reason for my post– that humans should be careful to listen to all sides, look at the numbers for themselves, and draw their own conclusions. One thing, tho, do you have a link to Engelder’s estimates being cited as gas-in-place and also his estimate for TRR? As far as I can tell, the estimates are all reported as recoverable gas. More stats means more fun!

  4. Caren Quinn says:

    The Marcellus Shale Coalition’s reply points out the industry’s take on the numbers, either to assure the investors, the Senate or landowners, their position is clear : “further affirmation that the Marcellus Shale will continue to safely produce prolific amounts of clean-burning American natural gas for generations to come.” This undoubtedly will be what the public hears, over and over again.

  5. Pingback: How Do Recent Serious Floods Impact the SGEIS/SEQRA Process? « Solid Shale

  6. Pingback: Top 10 3-legged Dog Blog Posts of 2011 | ada.mae.compton

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