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USGS Official Puts Recoverable U.S. Gas at 1,075 Tcf

The United States has enough undiscovered technically recoverable natural gas resources to meet the current consumption level for the next half century, according to statistics from an official with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) last Wednesday.

There is an estimated 1,075 Tcf of undiscovered technically recoverable natural gas resources in the U.S., which have the potential to become additions to existing reserves, said Brenda Pierce, program coordinator for the USGS' Energy Resources Program, during the United States Energy Association's Energy Supply Forum in Washington, DC.

Of the 1,075 Tcf, 655 Tcf is located onshore and in state waters, while 420 Tcf is located in the federal Outer Continental Shelf (OCS), according to Pierce. She estimated total undiscovered technically recoverable oil resources at 126.5 billion bbl, with 48.5 billion bbl located onshore and in state waters and 78 billion bbl of crude in the OCS.

Pierce noted that the USGS' "best estimate at this point" for technically recoverable resources in the 1002 area of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is 3.7 Tcf of natural gas and 10.4 billion bbl of oil. "There's only one hole in the 1002 area and it's tightly held. Nobody has seen it but the company and the native corporation. We have never seen it. If this area is ever drilled or better seismic is shot, these numbers are sure to change."

The USGS puts the technically recoverable continuous (economical) natural gas reserves -- coalbed methane, tight gas and shale gas -- at 273 Tcf. "There's a lot out [there], especially in the Rockies...Twenty years ago coalbed methane was an unconventional resource [uneconomical]. It was a hazard. And in a remarkably short time it's now almost 10% of the natural gas production in the United States," Pierce said.

"We have not assessed nonconventional resources in Alaska because it's a stranded resource...It's technically recoverable, but it's certainly not marketable without a pipeline," she noted.

Pierce said the USGS' resource assessment of the Bakken Shale formation in Williston Basin has increased 25-fold. In 1995 the agency calculated that the formation had the potential of 150 million bbl of oil, but its reassessment this year put the potential at 3.65 billion bbl. "That's not necessarily because we were wrong in 1995, but technological developments have increased significantly and archaelogic understanding of the deposit also changed."

She noted that the technology that was developed for the Barnett Shale area in Texas has been transferred to the Bakken Shale formation to explore for resources.

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