Companies operating in the mining sector – not just the miners, but the service and support businesses, as well – bring a great many benefits to the countries in which they develop resources. Because at present, however, it is often countries that are still finding their feet economically and socially that are blessed with abundant and available natural resources, few international businesses today are also fraught with more potential risks than the mining industry.

Innovative thinking and an openness to new ideas in Canada’s oil and gas sector have helped develop a unique technology that is generating impressive increases in ultimate oil recovery throughout North and South America and the Middle East. While the Alberta Oil Sands are still the most high-profile darling of Canada’s oil industry, fluid-pulse technology developed in Alberta is proving it can be used to potentially recover billions of barrels of oil previously left behind in oil fields thought to be depleted or uneconomical.

The natural gas industry has underestimated the resolve of the environmental activist community in New York state. For the better part of a decade, the state’s gas industry has continued to lose the messaging war while jobs and industry move to nearby Pennsylvania and Ohio. The problem has many causes, not least of which is poor coordination and understanding of the state’s subtleties by the gas industry. In order to reach Gov. Andrew Cuomo and key state influencers, natural gas advocates must return to the drawing board and rethink their broad-based themes and methods of reaching out to New Yorkers.

For producers of oil and gas, there was much to like about President Obama’s Feb. 12 State of the Union address, and for good reason – the oil and gas industry has done a masterful job of identifying new domestic energy sources, responsibly developing unconventional shale plays, and helping North America gain control of its energy future.

Today, the notion of North American energy independence is one that seems more realistic than ever. President Obama acknowledged this fact when he recently addressed the nation, noting that in the United States, we buy less foreign oil than we have in 20 years, and that we are producing more oil domestically than we have in 15 years.

The shale revolution continues to modify the North American energy landscape in ways previously unforeseen. After the epic fall of natural gas prices in late 2011, most upstream producers spent 2012 shifting their exploration and production to liquids-rich shale plays, particularly those containing crude oil in order to obtain higher margins.

The location and volume of all this new crude oil has created a logistical problem: How to reach the market? Similar to natural gas, the existing crude oil pipeline infrastructure is significantly constrained. But unlike natural gas, crude oil doesn’t require compression for transport. As a result, rail transportation of oil is booming and has led to the growth of a new niche market: marine oil terminals. Dozens of these projects have been announced, complete with unit train unloading facilities to receive and store shipments of crude oil and move them to refineries.

Texas crude oil production has doubled in the past three years.The use of hydraulic fracturing – colloquially, and oftentimes pejoratively, called “fracking” – combined with directional drilling in shale plays to release oil and gas from hydrocarbon-rich shale formations is the most exciting development in the production of petroleum in the United States in more than a century. Offering the promise of energy independence that is coveted by both sides of the political aisle, hydraulic fracturing in shale plays first found widespread use in the Barnett Shale play around Fort Worth, Texas. But the reserves of the Barnett Shale play—estimated to be 30 trillion cubic feet of recoverable gas—are tiny in comparison to the Barnett’s larger cousin, the Eagle Ford Shale.

We’re living in exciting times. In the space of a decade, the United States has gone from dried-up conventional wells to an oil and gas boom that produced record numbers in 2012. Not only is the United States expected to outstrip those again in 2013, it is actually on track to overtake Saudi Arabia’s production by 2020.

A lot of Americans are pinching themselves, but it’s not just a dream. According to the International Energy Agency, the United States is on track to be producing more oil than Saudi Arabia by 2020. By 2030, the United States will become a net oil exporter.

In the recent State of the Union address, President Obama outlined his administration’s commitment to the shale gas production boom that has transformed the energy landscape in North America. This boom and the renaissance of oil production from onshore resource plays have been driven by smaller, focused companies such as EOG Resources and Continental Resources.

Likewise, in the international arena, independent exploration and production companies are demonstrating that you don’t have to be big to produce big results. In fact, two thirds of all significant oil and gas discoveries by private companies in 2010 and 2011 were made not by super-majors, but rather by a relatively small group of innovative independents.

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