The U.S. has continued to be the world’s largest natural hydrocarbons producer, ahead of Russia and Saudi Arabia – the country’s Energy Information Agency reports. Meanwhile, another reports shows that America’s technically recoverable natural gas resources are far from being depleted. In fact, they are more abundant than previously thought.
Since 2008, U.S. petroleum production has increased by more than 11 quadrillion British thermal units (Btu), with dramatic growth in Texas and North Dakota – predominantly due to shale exploration. Despite the 50 per cent decline in crude oil prices that occurred in the second half of last year, U.S. petroleum production still increased by 3 quadrillion Btu (1.6 million barrels per day) in 2014. Natural gas production — largely from the eastern United States — increased by 5 quadrillion Btu (13.9 billion cubic feet per day) over the past five years.
What is more, the USA leading position in hydrocarbon exploration looks to remain unchallenged. Yesterday, the non-profit Potential Gas Committee has revised upwards its estimate of the amount of technically recoverable natural gas under the U.S. to a record 2,515 trillion cubic feet (tcf).
The Potential Gas Committee gathers more than 100 geoscientists and petroleum engineering volunteers who produce assessments of the U.S. technically recoverable gas resource base every 2 years. The assessments do not consider whether resources will be developed, but attempt to show they exist and could be developed if needed and adequate price/cost relationships exist, the committee said.
The most recent increase – by 131 tcf from the last assessment in 2012 – stems from re-evaluations of shale gas resources in the Atlantic, Mid-Continent, Gulf Coast and Rocky Mountain areas, and conventional/tight gas resources in the Mid-Continent and Rockies.
These changes have been assessed in addition to 53 Tcf of domestic marketed-gas production estimated by the EIA for the two-year period since the Committee’s previous assessment.
“The PGC’s year-end 2014 assessment reaffirms the Committee’s conviction that abundant, recoverable natural gas resources exist within our borders, both onshore and offshore, and in all types of reservoirs—from conventional, ‘tight’ and shales, to coals,” said Dr. John B. Curtis, Professor Emeritus of Geology and Geological Engineering at the Colorado School of Mines and Director of the Potential Gas Agency there, which provides guidance and technical
assistance to the Potential Gas Committee.
As Dr. Curtis observed, “Our knowledge of the geological endowment of technically recoverable gas continues to improve with each assessment. Furthermore, new and advanced exploration, well drilling, completion and stimulation technologies are allowing us increasingly better delineation of and access to domestic gas resources—especially ‘unconventional’ gas—which, not all that long ago, were considered impractical or uneconomical to pursue.”
“Consequently, our present assessment, strengthened by robust domestic production levels and reserves bookings, demonstrates an exceptionally strong and optimistic gas supply picture for the nation.”
As a result of successive increases in the assessments of Appalachian basin shale gas, the Atlantic area ranks again as the country’s richest resource area with 35 per cent of total U.S. Traditional resources, followed by the Gulf Coast (including the Gulf of Mexico) with 23 per cent, Rocky Mountains with 18%, and the Mid-Continent with 12.5 per cent.
Changes in the total assessment from 2012 to 2014 arose primarily from analyses of recent drilling, welltest and production data from these four regions. The largest volumetric and percentage gains were reported for Appalachian shales, primarily the Marcellus but also including the Utica and the newly assessed Rogersville Shale, which collectively rose by 137 Tcf (24 per cent).
Gulf Coast assessments rose by 15 Tcf (3 per cent), reflecting continued aggressive development of wet gas and condensate in the prolific Eagle Ford Shale of the Texas Gulf Coast basin and a first-time assessment for the Cretaceous Tuscaloosa marine shale in Louisiana.
For the MidContinent, modest declines in assessments for the Arkoma and Anadarko basins (conventional reservoirs and shales) were offset by substantially higher evaluations of the Barnett Shale in the Fort Worth basin and the stacked pays of the Bone Spring and Wolfcamp plays in the Permian basin. The area’s total assessment gained 26.9 Tcf (10 per cent).
The 9.6-Tcf (2.3 per cent) net increase for the Rocky Mountain area resulted from reevaluation of new data and drilling results from the Cretaceous Niobrara shale play in western Colorado’s Piceance basin and the Niobrara fractured-carbonate play in the Denver basin.
The growing importance of shale gas nationwide is substantiated by the fact that the PGC’s total assessed shale gas resource of 1,253 Tcf for 2014 accounts for approximately 61 per cent of the country’s total Traditional potential resources, up from 57 percent in 2012.
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