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Effects of America's shale revolution reverberate around the worldMarch 29 2013, 1:00pm
When the boss of one of America's largest corporations comments that the world is undergoing a "shale gas revolution", it is clearly something to take seriously.
General Electric chief Jeff Immelt's recent tweet after attending a conference on this rapidly growing form of energy production highlighted its future importance.
US broker Citi, meanwhile, goes further and cites the revolution in shale as driver behind a general decline in global oil demand - as the black stuff is substituted by gas.
In a detailed research note the Wall Street broker argues demand for oil is now reaching a "tipping point" and oil demand may be "topping out" much sooner than the market expects.
"The structural bull market [in oil] of the previous decade was a result of surging global oil demand and consistently disappointing non-OPEC supply growth, compounded by a collapse in Iraqi and Venezuelan production. The outlook for each of these factors has now reversed."
Shale gas is found trapped between certain geological formations, but it is recent developments in drilling that have allowed it to be exploited.
The shift from oil to gas is already underway and well documented in the US, notes Citi analyst Seth Kleinman.
But politics, greater availability of natural gas and environmental concerns over oil mean this trend is rapidly gaining ground globally.
The point was hammered home this week as it became ever clearer that the US was moving from energy importer to exporter - all thanks to shale - as Centrica announced a huge deal.
The British utility giant has inked a 20 year agreement that will see liquefied natural gas (LNG) exported to UK shores from Louisiana.
Indeed, Kleinman points out that the prevalence of gas is set to continue with LNG already challenging the use of diesel for heavy duty trucks globally, especially in China.
And compressed natural gas (CNG) - a substitute for petrol – is set for exponential growth in Brazil, Egypt, Iran and India and in Russia and the US too.
Citi analysts have looked at sectors where there are clear opportunities for gas to replace oil, including in vehicles and ships, and with other factors, have assessed that this could put a plateau in global oil demand by 2020.
Another vital factor is that increasingly, oil-based power generation is being replaced by gas with as much as 2 million barrels a day of power demand in the Middle East being potentially switched to natural gas by the end of the decade.
Change is also underway at home, with a trio of supertankers carrying LNG recently diverted to the UK amid fears the cold weather would lead to a shortage in supply.
Companies with uncoventional gas assets in the UK, such as IGas (LON:IGAS), have already seen a share price bounce, but scepticism still exists about how easy any UK gas will be to get at.
This suspicion may change if gas does overtake oil as the global energy source of choice, which Citi and Jeff Immelt are is right will be a case of when rather than if.