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A Preliminary Energy Return on Investment Analysis of Natural Gas from the Marcellus Shale



An analysis of the energy return on investment (EROI) of natural gas obtained from horizontal, hydraulically fractured wells in the Marcellus Shale was conducted using net external energy ratio methodology and available data and estimates of energy inputs and outputs. Used as sources of input data were estimates of carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxides emitted from the gas extraction processes, as well as fuel-use reports from industry and other sources. Estimates of quantities of materials used and the associated embodied energy as well as other energy-using steps were also developed from available data. Total input energy was compared with the energy expected to be made available to end users of the natural gas produced from a typical Marcellus well. The analysis indicates that the EROI of a typical well is likely between 64:1 and 112:1, with a mean of approximately 85:1. This range assumes an estimated ultimate recovery (EUR) of 3.0 billion cubic feet (Bcf) per well. EROI values are directly proportionate to EUR values. If the EUR is greater or lesser than 3 Bcf, the EROI would be proportionately higher or lower. EROI is also sensitive to the energy used or embedded in gathering and transmission pipelines and associated infrastructure and energy used for their construction, energy consumed in well drilling and well completion, and energy used for wastewater treatment.