By SEAN ROWLEY
A luminary within the energy industry calls Tahlequah home, and these days, he’s talking a lot about fracking.
Kirk Boatright, a former dean at Northeastern State University, runs an operation called Training Consultants International. It’s a home-based business, but it often sends him on the road. It has been in existence and evolving since 1980.
“I am called to offer technical training courses in engineering,” Boatright said. “They are among the best courses in the world.”
Over the years, his clients have included ExxonMobil, Shell, Chevron, British Petroleum, Devon, Marathon and Maersk. He will offer two courses in Houston in January.
In recent years, his courses have taught the engineering facets of hydraulic fracturing, often called “fracking.”
“More and more companies are becoming involved in it,” he said. “Ten years ago, we didn’t have the technology to do this, and about five years ago, the technology improved.”
Today, horizontal well-boring is much more economical. More natural gas is being used due to the increased production. For some, the drilling technique can allow the U.S. to wean itself off foreign energy sources. Others believe it will delay a conversion to renewable energy.
Boatright does not expect renewables to significantly impact American energy consumption over the next couple of decades.
He explained the U.S. is actually a world leader in the use of wind, generating 25 percent of the world’s output. However, wind accounted for just 2.3 percent of U.S. energy consumption in 2010. The use of solar is growing, but it accounted for less than .18 percent of consumption between October 2012 and September 2013.
Even the most optimistic forecasts by environmental groups foresee no more than 30 percent of energy generated by renewables in the U.S. over the next 15-20 years.
“It is estimated by 2030 that 35 percent of our energy will still come from oil,” Boatright said. “Petroleum, natural gas, coal and nuclear will still account for almost all of it.”
Fracking has to be part of the plan
Any strategy intended to achieve energy independence for the U.S. should include fracking, Boatright said.
“The ability to recover these gasses, liquids and condensates has reduced our need for foreign energy,” he said. “The U.S. now has the largest supply of hydrocarbon liquids in the world - more than Russia, more than Saudi Arabia. That includes oil, condensate and natural gas. If fracturing is prevented, energy costs will skyrocket. We will lose the equivalent of 4.5 million barrels of oil a day.”
Boatright said many practices sought by the energy industry have environmental benefits.
“The reason there is no Keystone Pipeline is because of politics,” he said. “The product still gets sold. Trains are coming out of Canada carrying about 70,000 barrels of oil each. Is that safer than a pipeline?”
Amid concerns about the effect of carbon dioxide emissions on climate, Boatright said natural gas use has helped reduce the American carbon footprint. The U.S., while still the second-largest producer of carbon dioxide, has reduced its emissions to 1990 levels. Many sources cite the conversion of coal-fired electric plants to natural gas - made more plentiful by fracturing methods - as key to the reduction.
“Protecting the environment, in my opinion, should include building all vehicles to run on compressed natural gas within five years,” Boatright said. “You can travel as far at about a third the cost of fuel oil.”
In seeking energy self-reliance, Boatright said the goal should not be U.S. independence, but North American independence.
“I believe the real opportunity is independence as a continent,” he said. “In terms of proven reserves of fossil fuels - coal, oil, natural gas, condensate - the Middle East has 2.6 trillion barrels. The U.S., Canada and Mexico have 13.6 trillion barrels.”
Boatright offers three five-day courses through TCI: Basic Petroleum Engineering Practices, Basic Petroleum Technology, Basic Reservoir Engineering, and a 10-day course combining petroleum engineering practices and reservoir engineering.
More than 14,000 people have attended Boatright’s courses. He plans to publish four books based on decades of engineering study.
Visit Boatright’s TCI site at www.trainingconsultantsintl.com.
To read an online exclusive about Boatright’s career, go to tahlequahTDP.com