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Shale oil and gas to have deep effect on sector

Although oil and gas prices are proving largely unaffected by conflict in parts of the Middle East, an increase in shale oil and gas production is set to rapidly alter the energy sector.

Although oil and gas prices are proving largely unaffected by conflict in parts of the Middle East, an increase in shale oil and gas production is set to rapidly alter the energy sector.

The industry will spend US$90 billion (Dh330.52bn) on exploration by the end of this year compared with $20bn just five years ago, said Mike Daly, a senior executive at the British energy giant BP.

He said more than half of current spending was on unearthing unconventional hydrocarbons such as shale oil and gas.

The boom in production of hard-to-access reserves risks weighing on prices of conventional crude, according to industry leaders.

"We are facing a revolution, from North America," Christophe de Margerie, the chairman and chief executive of the French energy giant Total, said.

A forecast last week by the International Energy Agency (IEA) that the United States would become the world's biggest oil producer by 2017 thanks to a boom in hard-to-reach energy trapped in shale, or sedimentary rock, has triggered debate among companies and consumers.

Mr de Margerie stressed the industry's biggest danger was no longer a drop in oil reserves but technological limitations preventing exploitation of energy resources that can serve the world's needs for "decades and decades".

Although "the future is going to be technologically challenging" it would not be "more than it has been in the past," said Mr Daly.

According to the IEA, world gas demand is set to rocket by 50 per cent by 2035, with half of this increase met by unconventional gas output.

Shale oil and gas "will have the power, not only to stop prices from rising any further but to send prices lower in the coming years", said Torbjorn Kjus, an analyst at DNB Bank.

"This is despite our view that geopolitical risk in the oil market will be even higher in the coming 10 years than in the prior 10 years."

Crude oil prices rallied last week on Middle East supply concerns as Israel and Gaza traded blows.

Julian Jessop, an analyst at Capital Economics research group, said the rise in shale products would affect Saudi Arabia, the world's biggest oil producer. "Looking further ahead, Saudi's position is only likely to weaken. The world could be awash with oil as a result of the surge in alternative energy supplies, as well as rapid gains in energy efficiency in developing economies," he said.

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