This is an excerpt from EERE Network News, a weekly electronic newsletter.

July 08, 2009

Report: Shale Gas Boosts U.S. Natural Gas Resources by 35%

U.S. natural gas producers have proven their ability to economically extract the precious energy resource from shale formations in Texas, and that revelation has led to a major revision in the estimated natural gas resources in the United States. As reported by the EERE Network News last year, the Barnett Shale formation under Fort Worth, Texas, now accounts for 6% of natural gas production in the lower 48 states, thanks to wells that run a mile-and-a-half deep, then run horizontally for about a mile. That fact led the Potential Gas Committee, a volunteer organization assisted by the Colorado School of Mines, to take another look at other shale gas resources throughout the United States, and to significantly revise its estimate of the nation's natural gas resources.

Considering only "traditional" gas resources, which exclude coal bed sources, the committee increased its estimate of "probable" production from current fields to 441.4 trillion cubic feet (Tcf), up 63.4% from the estimate the committee produced just two years ago. The committee also increased its estimate of "possible" production from new fields to 736.9 Tcf, up 72.8% from its 2006 estimate. Finally, the committee increased its estimate of "speculative" resources to 500.7 Tcf, a more modest increase of 8.7% above the earlier estimate. That yields a combined estimate of 1,673.4 Tcf, up 44.9% from the 2006 estimate, with nearly all of the increase in the "probable" and "possible" categories. Including coal bed natural gas increases the total to 1,836.4 Tcf, and adding proved reserves adds another 237.7 Tcf. That brings the total to 2,074.1 Tcf, but drops the increase to 35.4%, because the estimate of coal bed resources decreased. That also marks the highest estimate in the committee's 44-year history.

The committee attributed most of the increase to shale gas resources in the Appalachian basin and in the Mid-Continent, Gulf Coast, and Rocky Mountain areas. The jump in natural gas resources bodes well for efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions, as it suggests that the nation could gradually transition away from more carbon-intensive fossil fuels toward a greater use of natural gas. See the press release from the Colorado School of Mines.