The People of America's Oil and Natural Gas Indusry

Natural Gas: 'An Unexpected Gift'

Jane Van Ryan

Jane Van Ryan
Posted March 10, 2010

Many of the world's most knowledgeable energy experts are meeting in Houston this week at the 29th annual CERAWeek conference. CERAWeek is sponsored by IHS Cambridge Energy Research Associates, Inc. to provide insight on the future of energy.

Although the speeches and panel discussions often focus on oil, this year natural gas is taking center stage.

As reported by Houston Chronicle blogger Tom Fowler, energy executives from Italy and the United States used their speeches to call attention to natural gas's potential in meeting future energy needs, while U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu only acknowledged shale natural gas.

In his speech, Sec. Chu discussed the development of new technologies to store power coming from windmills and suggested that natural gas be used to generate back-up electricity. But ConocoPhillips' CEO Jim Mulva called natural gas "an unexpected gift."

While he agreed that all forms of energy, including wind, solar, nuclear, and coal, will be needed in the future, he added, "Natural gas will remain a leading base-load power generation and hearing source, due to its cleanliness, abundance and reasonable cost."

Mulva also explained that the recent U.S. "shale gas revolution" has occurred on private and state land, and he encouraged the administration to open more federal lands to energy development.

"For example," he said, "the U.S. government holds 2.4 billion acres of mineral estate. That is larger than the land area of any of the world's countries, except Russia and Canada. Of this, 3%, yes, only 3%, has been leased for energy development."

The combination of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing is unlocking natural gas from shale formations all over the world. By 2050, Mulva said, natural gas will have the potential to achieve national and world energy security, provide affordable energy to consumers, enhance prosperity and job creation, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

"For all of these reasons," he stated, "we are aggressively pointing out the benefits of greater use of natural gas."