Skip to main content Skip to navigation

Departments & Programs


ERE Seminar: Francis O'Sullivan (MIT Energy Initiative) - "The U.S. shale resource — A multi-scale analysis of productivity"

Francis O’Sullivan | MIT Energy Initiative

"The U.S. shale resource – A multi-scale analysis of productivity"

Over the past decade, the large-scale production of natural gas, and more recently oil, from U.S. shale formations has had a transformative impact on the energy industry. The emergence of shale oil and gas as recoverable resources has altered perceptions regarding both the future abundance and cost of hydrocarbons, and has shifted the balance of global energy geopolitics. However, despite the excitement, shale is a resource in its nascency, and many challenges surrounding its exploitation remain. One of the most significant of these is the dramatic variation in resource productivity across multiple length scales, which is a feature of all of today’s shale plays. This presentation will describe the results of work that has looked to characterize the spatial and temporal variations in shale resource productivity. Results will presented which show that productivity is stochastic, particularly over length scales relevant to operators. A characterization of this stochasticity will be proposed, and it will be shown that “creaming” is observable. The presentation will conclude by discussing how these productivity characteristic impact on the resources’ economic profile.

Dr. Francis O’Sullivan is Director of Research and Analysis for the MIT Energy Initiative, and a lecturer at the MIT Sloan School of Management. His research interests span a range of topics related to energy technologies, policy and economics. His current research is focused on unconventional oil and gas resources, the energy-water nexus, and solar energy. He has extensive expertise regarding the production dynamics and associated economics of North America’s shale plays. His work also includes the study of global gas market dynamics and the LNG trade, and he is actively studying the implications for international energy markets of emerging unconventional hydrocarbon resource plays, particularly those in China and Australia.

He has written and spoken widely on these topics, and has made presentations to the President’s Office of Science and Technology Policy, the United States Environmental Protection Agency, the Brookings Institute, the Bipartisan Policy Center, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the National Governors’ Association, the National Association of Regulated Utility Commissioners, at CERAWeek, the American Physical Society, and to a range of other academic, policy and industry forums. He is an author of the 2011 MIT Future of Natural Gas Study, and a member of the MIT Future of Solar Energy study group. Dr. O’Sullivan is also a member of the National Academies’ Roundtable on Science and Technology for Sustainability.

Prior to joining MIT, Dr. O’Sullivan was a consultant with McKinsey & Company, where he worked extensively in the areas of economic, investment and risk analysis, strategic planning, and operations in the private equity, oil and gas, electric utility, and renewable energy sectors.

Dr. O’Sullivan received his Ph.D., E.E., and S.M. degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and his B.E. degree from the National University of Ireland, all in electrical engineering.

Contact Information
Contact Email:
Contact Phone: 
Date and Time: 
Monday, February 10, 2014 - 12:15pm
Room 104, Green Earth Sciences Building, 367 Panama Street Stanford
Event Sponsor: 
Energy Resources Engineering