Jane Van Ryan
Posted January 21, 2010
As we reported yesterday, hydraulic fracturing has led to a boom in U.S. natural gas production in recent years, greatly increasing the nation's supplies of this clean-burning fuel. It has been so successful, in fact, the United States has overtaken Russia as the world's largest natural-gas producer.
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) reports that U.S. natural gas output from January through October 2009 was 3.9 percent higher than a year earlier as drillers used hydraulic fracturing to boost supplies. In Russia, natural gas output fell 17 percent during the same period.
Bloomberg reports that the "surprising boost shale gas has given U.S. output has closed the world's biggest energy consumer to some imports" and has stymied Russia's state-run Gazprom from breaking into the U.S. market.
Hydraulic fracturing or fracking, as it's often called, creates tiny cracks in hard-rock formations--including shales--allowing the natural gas to flow into the wellbore. The practice has been used in about one million wells with no documented cases of ground water contamination.
"We can now find and produce unconventional natural-gas supplies miles below the surface in a safe, efficient and environmentally responsible manner," Rex Tillerson, ExxonMobil's Chairman and CEO told a congressional panel yesterday.
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