The abundance of natural gas reserves already discovered, and the prospects for a large yet-to-find potential, give gas a lifetime probably in excess of 130 years, according to the World Energy Council (WEC).

The council's 2007 Survey of Energy Resources, issued last week, found that global oil and gas reservoirs contain more recoverable hydrocarbons than previously thought and should help to meet a doubling in world energy consumption expected by 2050. Its estimate for the lifetime for gas resources is based on a 2006 rate of consumption of 2,930 billion cubic meters (Bcm).

"The amount of natural gas remaining to be discovered has been consistently and significantly underestimated," WEC noted.

"Because interest in natural gas was very late in developing, many territories have been only partially explored, if at all," the report noted. "Additionally, improvements in transportation economics are gradually providing access to a potential of 'stranded' gas, remote from consuming zones, onshore and offshore, currently estimated at 30-35 trillion cubic meters (Tcm), making it marketable at a competitive price."

New frontier areas for exploration also are opening up in deeper and more complex horizons, fold-belt provinces and deep sedimentary basins.

"The Arctic basins in particular present very high potential for hydrocarbons, especially gas," the report said. "While exploration in fold belts has hitherto focused on the shallowest objectives, deep exploration has been little undertaken, leaving hopes of future major gas discoveries."

Additional gas resources, estimated at 170-220 Tcm, represent "at least as much as current proven reserves [and] are probably still classified as unproven or yet-to-find."

Conventional gas resources also "must be augmented by the large potential of unconventional gas," noted the authors. "Coalbed methane (CBM) resources represent an additional volume estimated at 100 to 250 Tcm. Gas shales and tight gas sands resources also harbor very high and still largely unidentified potential."

In the United States, it noted, CBM and tight gas production now account for about 30% of total gas produced every year. And even though no technique has been tested on an industrial scale to develop and produce hydrates -- with a potential of 20,000-25,000 Tcm offshore -- "hydrates are also often touted as a valid alternative..."

According to the WEC, gas technology represents a "key element" in commercializing gas. Several options exist that include traditional: liquefied natural gas and pipeline, and emerging: gas-to-liquids, compressed natural gas and gas-to-wire.

The WEC, which lobbies for energy use on behalf of industry and government in 94 member countries, also raised its estimate of proven and recoverable conventional oil reserves worldwide by a tenth, or 117 billion bbl, to 1.215 trillion bbl at year-end 2005 compared with its previous estimate in 2002.

"Oil will not run out for many years, if ever," the WEC noted.

Even with the expected growth in energy demand, WEC Secretary General Gerald Doucet said there are sufficient resources, including uranium for nuclear power, biofuels and coal, in place to meet the world's needs as long as all energy options by governments are left on the table.

The 600-page report may be downloaded at www.worldenergy.org under "Publications."

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