Welcome to the Age of Natural Gas

“The United States possesses a total technically recoverable resource base of 2,515 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) of natural gas as of year-end 2014.”

This is the highest resource evaluation by the Potential Gas Committee in its 50-year history.

The reserves would last over 100 years if new uses weren’t added to current uses.

An earlier article published the results of my analysis of whether new uses and export of natural gas would significantly diminish these reserves.

Here is the impact of major new uses.

If the U.S.:

  • Converts 50% of its coal power plants to NG it will use an additional 5.3 Tcf
  • Exports LNG from all proposed 19 terminals it will use an additional 10.4 Tcf
  • Converts 100% of long haul trucks to NG it will use an additional 7.3 Tcf

Including these annual additional uses results in the U.S. having a 50+ year supply of natural gas.

But this is a static picture of recoverable natural gas reserves.

It’s merely a snapshot in time.

Historically, recoverable reserves have increased yearly as the result of new technologies being used to extract oil and gas form the ground.

There is no reason to believe that this technological process will change in the future.

In fact, new fracking techniques are already increasing how much oil and natural gas can be extracted from any shale formation.

This will mean that recoverable reserves will increase each year into the future, for an unknown number of years.

It could easily mean we have natural gas reserves that will last beyond this century, probably for an additional one or two hundred years, and possibly for a 1,000 years.

Unquestionably, shale gas will be extracted from shale formations around the world, including Argentina, the UK and China.

And this is before we begin to extract natural gas from methane hydrates, which could provide natural gas for an additional thousand years for countries around the world.

Table 1 depicts the available methane hydrates on the U.S. outer continental shelf (OCS), which is a fraction of methane hydrates available worldwide.

Methane Hydrates on US OCS

Region

In-place Gas Hydrate Resources

Atlantic OCS

21,702 Tcf

Gulf of Mexico OCS

21,444 Tcf

West Coast OCS

  8,192 Tcf

Total

51,338 Tcf

From Bureau of Ocean Energy Management

 

The age of coal will not immediately go away. Huge reserves of cheap coal remain in many countries, including Indonesia, India and China. Worldwide usage of energy sources is forecast in Figure 5 of the EIA International Energy Outlook.

Graph from EIA, 2013
Graph from EIA, 2013

 

On their current trajectories, natural gas will surpass the use of coal this century.

Natural gas is clean, has virtually no negative health effects, and will become cheaper as the shale revolution grows.

Expensive and unreliable wind and solar will be eclipsed by natural gas.

The world will benefit, and the poorest people in the poorest of countries will benefit from the age of natural gas.

 

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