The People of America's Oil and Natural Gas Indusry

Natural Gas' "Shale Gale"

Jane Van Ryan

Jane Van Ryan
Posted March 15, 2010

About 30 years ago, Kuwait's economic advisor in Washington predicted the United States would become dependent on the Middle East for natural gas supplies.

At the time, the nation was still smarting from the 1978-79 Iranian revolution and the accompanying spike in oil prices. For American consumers who had spent the summer sitting in gasoline lines, the Kuwaiti official's prediction was not something they wanted to hear.

How things have changed.

Today, due to technological advances, the United States is reaping the benefits of its own natural gas locked in hard rock and coal formations that couldn't be harvested a few years ago.

Now a new study by IHS Cambridge Energy Research Associates (CERA) says U.S. shale deposits could meet the nation's natural gas demand for more than 100 years. CERA says about 2,000 trillion cubic feet of natural gas has been discovered so far in places such as the Barnett, Haynesville and Marcellus shale formations, and it's likely that another 1,000 trillion cubic feet will be found in the future. (Ft. Worth Star-Telegram)

The shale-gas boom is expected to more than double the number of natural gas wells to be drilled in Pennsylvania this year. According to The Philadelphia Inquirer, the Marcellus Shale Coalition estimates that up to 1,750 wells will be drilled this year, up from 763 last year.

CERA says shale gas production is a "game changer" for U.S. energy supplies, and it predicts that the amount of clean-burning natural gas used for electricity generation could nearly double by 2035. Clearly, this "veritable shale gale" was unforeseen by energy experts round the world just three decades ago.