The use of horizontal drilling in conjunction with hydraulic fracturing has greatly expanded the ability of producers to profitably produce natural gas from low permeability shale formations. This technology has widely been hailed as a “game changer” for U.S. energy supplies. The U.S. Energy Information Administration’s Annual Energy Outlook 2011 estimates technically recoverable U.S. shale gas resources at a whopping 862 trillion cubic feet.
In April 2010, the U.S. launched the Global Shale Gas Initiative, a program to
help other countries assess and develop their unconventional gas resources. A
global shale gas revolution could shake up the world’s economic and
geopolitical balance drastically over the next decade. The results of the study
are now available online
through the U.S. Energy Information office atwww.eia.doe.gov/analysis/studies/worldshalegas/.
The report assessed 48 shale gas basins in 32 countries. The initial
estimate of technically recoverable shale gas resources in the 32 countries
examined is 5,760 trillion cu. ft.
Adding the U.S. estimate of 862 trillion cu. ft. of recoverable shale gas
results in a total shale resource base estimate of 6,622 trillion cu. ft. To
put this in perspective, the world’s proven reserves of natural gas as of
January 1, 2010 were about 6,609 trillion cu. ft., and world technically
recoverable gas resources are roughly 16,000 trillion cu. ft., largely
excluding shale gas. Thus, adding the identified shale gas resources to other
gas resources increases total world technically recoverable gas resources by
over 40% to 22,600 trillion cu. ft.
Two country groupings emerge where shale gas development may appear most
attractive. The first group consists of countries that are currently highly
dependent upon natural gas imports, have at least some gas production
infrastructure, and their estimated shale gas resources are substantial
relative to their current gas consumption. Countries in this group have high
motivation for shale gas development and include France, Poland, Turkey,
Ukraine, South Africa, Morocco, and Chile.
The second group consists of countries where the shale gas resource estimate is
large (above 200 trillion cu. ft.) and there already exists a significant
natural gas production infrastructure for internal use or for export. In
addition to the U.S., notable examples of this group include Canada, Mexico,
China, Australia, Libya, Algeria, Argentina, and Brazil.
Heartening to this reporter is that most of the countries cited have friendly
to cordial relationships with the U.S., or at least are an economic
co-dependent (China). They would mark a welcome alternative to the energy
stranglehold now inflicted by the world’s leading oil producers, which include
too many backward regimes infected by radical Islam and/or hostility toward the