What is Shale Gas?

Shale Gas Economics: Extracting from domestic oil reserves

Although we've known for many years that natural shale gas and oil shale reserves were trapped in hard dense deposits of shale formed from ancient sea basins millions of years ago, we did not have all of the technologies needed to access these resources economically until recently. As a result, previously uneconomic resources are now available for exploration and development. In the last five years, natural gas reserves grew 30 percent and in the last few years alone we have increased onshore natural gas production by more than 20 percent – an accomplishment that most energy experts thought impossible a few years ago. And the shale definition is more than just natural gas, the Energy Information Agency (EIA) reports: "Shale plays known primarily for natural gas production-or where horizontal drilling initially targeted natural gas-are also seeing accelerating oil-focused drilling." Noting that in North Dakota "total oil production has approximately tripled since 2005."

Shale gas play locations

Shale gas maps show "plays" are found throughout the Mountain West, the South and throughout the Northeast's Appalachian Basin. These plays are geographic areas where companies are actively looking for natural gas, and shale oil reserves in shale rock. The Barnett shale play in Texas, for example, is 5,000 square miles and provides 6 percent of U.S. natural gas. The Marcellus shale play that stretches across Pennsylvania, New York, Ohio and West Virginia covers ten times the square miles of the Barnett, but has only recently started to be developed. The development of the Marcellus and Barnett Shale natural gas has boosted local economies—generating royalty payments to property owners, providing tax revenues to the government and creating much-needed American jobs.

Impacts of shale oil reserve resources

The EIA reports that over 750 trillion cubic feet of technically recoverable shale gas and 24 billion barrels of technically recoverable shale oil resources in discovered shale plays. Responsibly developing these resources creates jobs and fuels our economy. And the key to unlocking these resources is through the process of hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking - a common shale gas extraction processs definition.

Fracking has emerged as a contentious issue in many communities, and it is important to note that there are only two sides in the debate: those who want our oil and natural resources developed in a safe and responsible way; and those who don’t want our oil and natural gas resources developed at all. Development does bring with it some challenges, but the oil and natural gas industry has and will continue to work with concerned citizens, regulators and policy makers to make sure that it is done responsibly.