While others have touted U.S. shale gas potential as equivalent to two Saudi Arabias, the western United States by itself could equal one, according to a report released earlier this month by an oil and natural gas advocacy group, Denver-based Western Energy Alliance. It contends that resources in the West could exceed today’s major U.S. energy imports by 2020.

Including 13 western states, but not California, the report projects gas production of 6.2 Tcf annually by 2020, compared to the 1 Tcf level last year, and 1.3 million bbl of oil and condensate annually by the same year, the latter amount representing more than current combined oil imports from Russia, Iraq and Kuwait. Western oil and gas production combined in 2020 would exceed current total energy imports from eight major U.S. import sources (Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Kuwait, Venezuela, Colombia, Algeria, Nigeria and Russia) combined.

Citing Utah as an example, the report, “The Blueprint for Western Energy Prosperity,” estimated that natural gas production in that traditionally coal-dependent state could increase by 42% during the next 10 years, as outlined by EIS Solutions with data projections from ICF International. Part of ICF’s assessment included an evaluation of 25 major North American shale gas plays.

ICF’s models and methods applied in the report included the subscription service forecasts the consulting research firm creates on a quarterly basis using its gas market, well vintage and North American power market models. “The study also includes state-level forecast counts of new wells and drilling footage, drilling expenditures, production of crude oil/condensates, dry natural gas and natural gas plant liquids, gross wellhead revenues, severence taxes, and oil/gas-related employment,” the report authors said.

A key to the West’s potential being realized depends on oil and gas producers getting approval to produce what are considered potential vast energy resources on public lands, according to the report by the alliance, which includes more than 400 oil and gas companies in the West. With that sort of mandate, energy development in the West could increase to $58 billion annually by 2020, the report predicted.

While the report paints the region’s vast potential, it also cites “grave” concerns among western producers, noting they are worried that “current and future government policies are significantly undermining these projections of growth, investment and expansion.”

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