Taking Advantage of America’s Natural Gas Windfall

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Taking Advantage of America’s Natural Gas Windfall

Thanks to new extraction technologies, the nation’s supply of recoverable natural gas is now at its highest level in history. 

According to recent estimates from the Potential Gas Committee (PCG), there is now 2,384 trillion cubic feet of recoverable natural gas in the United States.  This is an increase of 486 trillion cubic feet, or 26 percent, from the 2010 estimate.1  The PCG is a nonprofit organization of energy experts hosted by the Colorado School of Mines that has been releasing reports on the nation’s natural gas supply for nearly 50 years.

Why has the estimate increased so dramatically?  As PGC Director John Curtis explains, “Our knowledge of the geological endowment of technically recoverable gas continues to improve with each assessment.  Furthermore, new and advanced exploration, well drilling, and 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.”

In other words, it’s becoming easier to find, extract, transport, store, and use natural gas than it was just three years ago.

The PGC rates the Atlantic area, including the Marcellus Shale formation, as the area with the greatest abundance of natural gas, with an estimated 741,320 billion cubic feet.  The second-richest area is the Gulf Coast region, including part of Texas, all of Louisiana, and much of the Gulf, with an estimated 521,030 billion cubic feet of natural gas.

The PGC didn’t include the Department of Energy’s estimate of 304.6 trillion cubic feet of proved dry-gas reserves.  When those are considered, the U.S. boasts a total available future supply of 2.7 quadrillion cubic feet of natural gas.  To put that in perspective, the nation currently uses about 25 trillion cubic feet per year.2

According to Erica Bowman, chief economist for America’s Natural Gas Alliance, “No other energy source has the potential to improve air quality, boost our economy, and add to our nation’s energy security on such a large scale.  The Potential Gas Committee’s report offers further confirmation that our nation has a vast supply of clean and affordable natural gas, and we ought to be taking greater advantage of its potential in power generation, industrial applications, transportation, and exports...

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