Mountain States

USGS: Colorado’s Mancos Shale Has Enough Natural Gas to Power the US for More than Two Years

A new U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) assessment finds that the Mancos Shale in the Piceance Basin of Colorado holds 66 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) of natural gas, which makes it the second largest reserve in the nation.  As Denver Business Journal reported on the USGS’s findings,

“USGS now says there’s enough natural gas in the Colorado natural gas field to meet the needs of the entire nation for more than two years. The U.S. in 2015 consumed about 27.5 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.” (emphasis added)

According to USGS, this new assessment of gas is a dramatic increase from its 2003 assessment, which estimated the formation contained 1.6 Tcf. From the report:

“The Mancos Shale in the Piceance Basin of Colorado contains an estimated mean of 66 trillion cubic feet of shale natural gas, 74 million barrels of shale oil and 45 million barrels of natural gas liquids, according to an updated assessment by the U.S. Geological Survey. This estimate is for undiscovered, technically recoverable resources.”

Calling the Mancos Shale a “significant potential source of natural gas,” the USGS says the assessment was done “as part of a broader effort to reassess priority onshore U.S. continuous oil and gas accumulations.”

Members of Colorado’s congressional delegation applauded the findings with Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Cortez ,calling the findings “an incredible opportunity to create jobs and economic growth” and Republican Senator Cory Gardner calling the news “exciting for our energy-rich state.” Democratic Senator Michael Bennet also lauded the findings. As the Durango Herald reports:

“Responsible development of these resources can create good paying jobs and a cleaner energy mix, while still preserving sensitive landscapes like the Thompson Divide that make Colorado such a special place,” Bennet said in a statement. “We’ll work with local communities, industry, conservationists, and everyone in between to strike the right balance as we discuss protections for our lands and potential future development of these natural resources.”

This new assessment is great news Colorado’s Western Slope, an area encompassing western portions of the state where the economy benefits from the jobs, investment and revenues that come along with energy development. As EID recently highlighted, grants originating from energy development have funded important infrastructure upgrades and community enhancements in communities across the region.

One community in the region, Garfield County, is among those seeing huge benefits. The Garfield County Federal Mineral Lease District recently announced nearly $2 million in grants, which were awarded to fund improvements across their district. As noted in a press release announcing the recipients:

“The grants awarded for the Spring 2016 Grant Cycle totaled $1,959,000.00. The grants awarded for the Traditional Grant Program totaled $1,790,000.00. The grants awarded for the Mini Grant Program totaled $169,000.00.”

The Garfield County grants are going toward a new roof for an elementary school, public safety radios, water treatment plant improvements and a variety of other community enhancements.

The promise of this potential for energy development is bolstered by recent data from the EIA showing that since 2014, lower oil and natural gas prices have led to a reduction in household energy costs. Additionally, the EIA reported that our nation’s reliance on foreign oil dropped to levels not seen since the 1980s, further increasing U.S. energy security. This data, along with the potential for prolonged energy development, shows that despite the current price environment, shale development continues to deliver tangible, measurable benefits to Americans.

These are the benefits that national activist organizations in the “Keep-It-In-The-Ground” movement are trying to stop, as they continue seeking to ban fracking in Colorado and across the nation. Fortunately, Coloradoans have largely rejected this out-of-state fringe movement – and want to reap the benefits of our state’s vast resources.


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