US natgas resources at new record, a 100-year supply

18 June 2009 19:29  [Source: ICIS news]

WASHINGTON (ICIS news)--The US has enough natural gas to meet all domestic gas consumption needs for the next century, energy industry officials said on Thursday, marking the highest level of recoverable resources ever measured.

The American Gas Association (AGA) cited new data from the Potential Gas Committee (PGC) indicating that the nation has a total available supply of 2,074,000bn cubic feet (bcf) of natural gas.

The US consumes about 22,000 bcf annually.

Natural gas is a major feedstock and power fuel for the US petrochemicals industry and downstream chemicals manufacturers.

The Potential Gas Committee, a non-profit research organisation based at the Colorado School of Mines in Golden, Colorado, said the new supply data on natgas marks the highest resource evaluation in the committee’s 44-year history.

AGA and the committee said that much of the increase in US gas resources is due almost wholly to the availability of new technologies and drilling techniques that enable recovery of shale gas. 

Horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing have advanced in recent years to develop shale gas reserves - gas deposits locked in deep rock formations - that previously were unrecoverable or too costly to bring to the surface.

The lower 48 states have a wide distribution of shale reserves - known as plays - containing vast resources of natural gas, according to the US Department of Energy.

“Led by rapid development in the Barnett Shale in Texas, current shale gas activity is also found in areas of Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Illinois and the Appalachian Basin,” the department said in its own recent assessment of shale gas resources.  The Appalachian Basin includes major areas of New York, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio and parts of Kentucky, Tennessee and Alabama.

However, successful development of US natgas resources faces environmental and political challenges. 

Legislation pending in the US Congress would put new limits on hydraulic fracturing, which is essential to shale gas drilling, because of the large amounts of water and chemical additives injected into shale formations to free trapped gas.

Energy In Depth, a US oil and natural gas industry group, said that if Congress enacts limits on hydraulic fracturing, it could cut domestic gas production by 245 bcf annually.

AGA said that it hopes Congress takes note of the new natural gas resources report.

“It [Congress] should heed the report’s findings and understand that natural gas can and should be used in a multitude of applications now and in the future to reduce harmful greenhouse gases,” AGA said, referring to major climate control legislation now pending in Congress.

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By: Joe Kamalick
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