U.S. shale boom not exportable, says former Chesapeake CEO

Aubrey McClendon

Aubrey McClendon

Aubrey McClendon, former CEO of natural gas giant Chesapeake Energy, argued in a speech Wednesday that the U.S. shale drilling boom is unlikely to be replicated in other countries.

McClendon, who now has a new shale venture, American Energy Partners, said the combination of entrepreneurial spirit, expansive infrastructure and the private ownership of mineral rights makes the United States unique.

“There is no worldwide equal of the U.S. independent producer, who is a hugely entrepreneurial creature,” he said at the World Shale Oil & Gas Summit in Dallas. “We will always be able to do things here that the majors cannot.”

Oil and gas companies including Exxon Mobil and Chevron are already exploring the development of shale areas in countries including Mexico, China and Argentina.

The combination of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing technologies opened up deposits long believed to be impossible to drill in the United States. Technically speaking, there is no reason that same technology could not be exported elsewhere.

McClendon, who was ousted from Chesapeake in 2013 over questions about his management style, has long held a reputation as a risk taker with a knack for breaking with industry views.

While still at Chesapeake, he said, he entered into a deal with Norwegian oil giant Statoil to explore shale drilling opportunities around the world. But after two years studying opportunities in countries including Poland and Denmark, Chesapeake pulled out of the deal in 2009, McClendon said.

“You need to have shale that works … and you need reasonable commercial terms,” he said.

But for all his championing of the U.S. energy industry, McClendon had tough words for the federal government, which he said had yet to bring policy in line with new technology.

“The biggest challenge for policy is to take away 40 years’ knowledge that energy is scarce and free ourselves to think anew about foreign policy, domestic and environmental policy,” he said.

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