Safe Use of Hydraulic Fracturing, Effective State Regulation, Tied to 58% Expansion in U.S. Natural Gas Reserves

Report by Potential Gas Committee underscores critical role hydraulic fracturing plays in delivering future energy security

WASHINGTON, DC – The safe and responsible use of a critical well stimulation technology known as hydraulic fracturing has helped expand U.S. natural gas reserves by 58 percent in just four years, according to a new report released today by the Colorado School of Mines’ Potential Gas Committee.

“We’ve always known that America’s shale regions held enormous energy potential, but without the proper tools in place, it wasn’t clear whether we could ever convert that potential into real-world production,” said Lee Fuller, policy director for Energy In Depth, a new American oil and natural gas industry coalition formed to provide real information about energy development to the public and policymakers.

“Thanks to proven technology like hydraulic fracturing,” added Fuller, “now we know.  And thanks to this report, what we know is pretty staggering.”  Hydraulic fracturing is a technology used to stimulate the flow of energy from new and existing oil and gas wells. By creating or even restoring millimeter-thick fissures, the surface area of a formation exposed to the borehole increases and the fracture provides a conductive path that connects the reservoir to the well. These new paths increase the rate that fluids can be produced from the reservoir formations, in some cases by many hundreds of percent.  The rapid shift in natural gas development to shale gas formations means that roughly 90 percent of new wells require some form of fracture stimulation to assist their production.

Among its core conclusions, the Potential Gas Committee report suggests the United States is likely to be sitting atop natural gas reserves far larger than previously thought – 2,074 trillion cubic feet according to the committee, or nearly a 100 years worth of production. The expansion is due in large part to recently discovered reserves of gas in America’s shale regions, which include the Marcellus in the mid-Atlantic, the Barnett in Texas, the Woodford in Oklahoma, the Fayetteville in Arkansas, the Haynesville in Texas and Louisiana, and several others.

The revised account represents the largest jump in resource estimates in the 44-year history of the report.

Whether this new research informs the current debate over hydraulic fracturing on Capitol Hill remains unclear. Legislation aimed at destroying the current state-federal partnership in regulating hydraulic fracturing was introduced in both the Senate and House last week.

Although its authors have suggested the legislation “isn’t revolutionary” and simply represents “a technical fix,” the true consequences of the measure are likely to be much more pervasive and severe. In fact, recent studies on the issue – known collectively as Project BRIEF (Bringing Real Information on Energy Forward) – found that new federal regulations on already-well-regulated local oil and gas activities could result in:

  • The forced closure of more than half of America’s oil wells, and a third of its gas wells
  • $4 billion in lost revenue to the federal government; state treasuries would lose $785 million
  • Domestic oil production slashed by 183,000 barrels per day; natural gas by 245 billion cubic feet per year

Click here to view the executive summary of the Committee’s report. Click here to access the anti-fracturing bill advancing in the House, and here for the one introduced in the Senate.

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