As Shalegas Goes Big-time, Small Players Seek Bigger Pockets

Good prospects for "unconventional gas" in Marcellus, Texas and Mountain states drive transactions

1 min read
As Shalegas Goes Big-time, Small Players Seek Bigger Pockets

The U.S. shalegas business is dominated by small companies that are not household names and which do not operate the way the better-known tech companies do. (One example: if you're a journalist looking to cover a technology story, generally all you need to do is contact the relevant company or organization, get put in touch with the public affairs department, and go from there once some ground rules are negotiated; reporting on the Marcellus earlier this year, I found that the typical shalegas company does not have a PR or media department, does not return phone calls, and in the rare event it does, tells you bluntly that it sees no advantage in talking with a member of the press.) The situation appears, however, to be rapidly changing--the little unknowns are starting to get gobbled up by the mega energy companies we all know about.

The inflection point came in June when ExxonMobil completed its purchase of XTO Energy, based in Fort Worth, Texas, for $40 billion. The month before, Royal Dutch Shell stated its intention to buy East Resources Inc., which owns gas development rights covering 650,000 acres in the Marcellus.

Now, several other of those companies so unknown outside the shalegas business are putting themselves up for sale. Chief Oil & Gas and Talon Oil & Gas, both based in Dallas, as well as Denver-based Anuschutz Exploration Corp., all have made known they are looking for buyers. According to an estimate cited in the Wall Street Journal, unconventional gas will account for close to two thirds of U.S. natural gas production by 2020, as compared with two fifths today. People familiar with the background to the current situation describe the three companies as "operations limited by their size, leading them to explore sales," commented the Journal.

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This photograph shows a car with the words “We Drive Solar” on the door, connected to a charging station. A windmill can be seen in the background.

The Dutch city of Utrecht is embracing vehicle-to-grid technology, an example of which is shown here—an EV connected to a bidirectional charger. The historic Rijn en Zon windmill provides a fitting background for this scene.

We Drive Solar

Hundreds of charging stations for electric vehicles dot Utrecht’s urban landscape in the Netherlands like little electric mushrooms. Unlike those you may have grown accustomed to seeing, many of these stations don’t just charge electric cars—they can also send power from vehicle batteries to the local utility grid for use by homes and businesses.

Debates over the feasibility and value of such vehicle-to-grid technology go back decades. Those arguments are not yet settled. But big automakers like Volkswagen, Nissan, and Hyundai have moved to produce the kinds of cars that can use such bidirectional chargers—alongside similar vehicle-to-home technology, whereby your car can power your house, say, during a blackout, as promoted by Ford with its new F-150 Lightning. Given the rapid uptake of electric vehicles, many people are thinking hard about how to make the best use of all that rolling battery power.

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