Estimate of U.S. natural gas reserves up 25 percent since 2010


U.S. reserves of technically recoverable natural gas have increased considerably as new production technologies have come into use.

Estimates measuring the amount of natural gas in the United States that is recoverable using contemporary production equipment have been raised considerably in recent years.

According to a report from the Potential Gas Committee, the country's technically recoverable supply of gas increased by 25 percent, or 486 trillion cubic feet (tcf), between 2010 and 2012. At the end of last year, total U.S. reserves were estimated to be 2,384 tcf.

The organization presented its newest data last month at an event organized by the American Gas Association (AGA). During a press briefing, John Curtis, a professor of geology and geological engineering at the Colorado School of Mines and director of the state's Potential Gas Agency, said his research indicates that more good news about natural gas could be forthcoming in the near future, particularly along the East Coast.

"There is still up-side potential not only in the Utica, but also the Upper Devonian shale in the Atlantic states," Curtis said.

As we discussed in a previous post, the Northeast's Marcellus shale recently hit a major milestone, surpassing the Haynesville formation to become America's most productive shale, in terms of natural gas output. According to the research firm IHS, wells tapping into the Marcellus are now producing a total of more than 7 billion cubic feet of gas per day.

Rise in natural gas supplies tied to increasing accessibility of 'unconventional' reservoirs

Much of the increase in U.S. gas supplies has been driven by the industry's ongoing efforts to unlock "tight" resources, such as those being extracted from shale formations. Atlantic states have posted the largest increases in supply and now account for a total of more than 750 tcf – approximately 30 percent of the nation's reserves.

States along the Gulf Coast also boast considerable stores of natural gas, with more than 500 tcf between them. Rocky Mountain states, which contain slightly more than 420 tcf, were reported to have the next-largest reserves.

Following the AGA briefing, Erica Bowman, chief economist at America's Natural Gas Alliance, told reporters that the increase in estimates of recoverable gas reserves bolsters the case for the resource to become more widely used as a fuel and in the generation of electricity.

"No other energy source has the potential to improve air quality, boost our economy, and add to our nation's energy security on such a large scale," Bowman said.

Advanced production technologies key to capitalizing on new reserves

The implementation of new technologies has been critical in increasing both current U.S. production levels and the nation's total reserves. One piece of equipment that has come to be seen as increasingly critical is the hydraulic jet pump.

This solution is valued by well operators for its power and versatility. It can be used to complete drill stem testing and initiate production or increase recovery rates at new or established wells. Jet pumps can even be successfully deployed at sites where there are issues with the completion of well casing that would reduce the effectiveness of other artificial lift solutions.