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EIA: Domestic Production Surge Centered on Shale Plays

Total domestic natural gas production will grow from 21.0 Tcf in 2009 to 26.3 Tcf in 2035, according to the Energy Information Administration's (EIA) "Annual Energy Outlook 2011" (AEO2011), which was released Tuesday. The projected production for 2035 is 3.0 Tcf more than EIA had forecast in its previous annual outlook (see Daily GPI, Dec. 15, 2009).

The increase will be driven in large part by shale gas production, which will grow to 12.2 Tcf in 2035, when it will be 47% of total U.S. production, up from 16% in 2009, EIA said.

"The combination of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing technologies has made it possible to produce shale gas economically, leading to an average annual growth rate of 48% over the 2006-2010 period," according to the report. "Shale gas production continues to increase strongly through 2034 in the AEO2011 reference case, growing almost fourfold from 2009 to 2035."

As it had reported in a preliminary release of the AEO2011 in December (see Daily GPI, Dec. 17, 2010), EIA said the annual average natural gas wellhead price will remain under $5/Mcf through 2022, primarily because of the huge increase in the estimated amount of shale gas reserves. Gas wellhead prices (in 2009 dollars) are expected to hit $6.42/Mcf in 2035, well below the $8.19 projection of a year ago.

In 2010 U.S. shale gas production reached 4.87 Tcf (23% of total U.S. gas production), compared with 0.39 Tcf in 2000, according to previously released EIA data (see Shale Daily, April 7). Domestic gas proved reserves increased by 11% in 2009 to 284 Tcf, which is the highest level since 1971 (see Daily GPI, Dec. 1, 2010).

In addition to the strong growth expected in shale gas production, EIA forecasted growing use of natural gas and renewable energy sources in electric power generation, and a declining reliance on imported liquid fuels.

The AEO2011 projects oil prices to be about $125/bbl in 2009 dollars by 2035 and imports remaining a major, though declining, portion of the United States' energy mix. Rising fuel prices will also "spur domestic energy production across all fuels -- particularly, natural gas from plentiful shale gas resources -- and temper the growth of energy imports," according to EIA, which projects the net import share of total U.S. energy consumption in 2035 at 17%, compared with 24% in 2009.

"Much of the projected decline in the net import share of energy supply is accounted for by liquids. Although U.S. consumption of liquid fuels continues to grow through 2035 in the reference case, reliance on petroleum imports as a share of total liquids consumption decreases. Total U.S. consumption of liquid fuels, including both fossil fuels and biofuels, rises from about 18.8 million barrels per day in 2009 to 21.9 million barrels per day in 2035 in the reference case. The import share, which reached 60% in 2005 and 2006 before falling to 51% in 2009, falls to 42% in 2035."

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