Gas reserves top estimates New horizontal drilling methods have opened new sources

2009/06/19

COLUMBUS, Ohio — The country’s natural gas reserves are much bigger than previously thought, according to a report released Thursday.

Thanks to new technology that has allowed producers to drill for gas in shale rock, the Potential Gas Committee in Golden, Colo., said that the country’s estimated reserves are 35 percent higher than just two years ago and have reached the highest level since the group started tracking the information 44 years ago.

The report comes as natural gas is being touted as a way to help reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil and cut emissions.

“Our knowledge of the geological endowment of technically recoverable gas continues to improve with each assessment,” John Curtis, professor of geology and geological engineering at the Colorado School of Mines and the committee director, said in a statement. “Furthermore, new and advanced exploration, well drilling and completion technologies are allowing us increasingly better access to domestic gas resources — especially ‘unconventional’ gas — which, not all that long ago, were considered impractical or uneconomical to pursue.”

The committee estimated the country’s total natural gas resources at 2,074 trillion cubic feet, an increase of 542 trillion cubic feet from its last report.

The report is similar to a study prepared last summer for the natural gas-backed American Clean Skies Foundation that found the country had 2,247 trillion cubic feet of natural gas reserves — a 118-year supply at 2007 production levels. The U.S. consumes about 20 trillion cubic feet of natural gas per year.

Natural gas is used to generate about a fifth of the nation’s electricity as well as to heat homes. Those who are pushing natural gas the hardest, like Texas oilman T. Boone Pickens, have promoted natural gas as a transportation fuel that could be used to reduce dependence on foreign oil.

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