A decade into the U.S. unconventional drilling revolution, the overall size of recoverable natural gas reserves continues to increase and the pace of growth is accelerating, according to IHS Markit.
Domestic gas production is forecast to increase by almost 8 Bcf/d, or 10% plus in 2018 alone.
“Altogether, U.S. production is expected to grow by another 60% over the next 20 years,” researchers said in “The Shale Gale Turns 10: A Powerful Wind at America’s Back.”
Additionally, an estimated 1,250 Tcf of U.S. supply was found to be economic below $4.00/MMBtu Henry Hub, versus an estimate of 900 Tcf in 2010.
The “shale gale,” is a term coined in 2010 by the report’s co-author Daniel Yergin, vice chairman of IHS Markit. To say it “has been anything but a veritable revolution would be an understatement,” he said. “It represents a dramatic and largely unanticipated turnaround that dramatically changed both markets and long-term thinking about energy.
“The profound and ongoing impacts on the industry, energy markets, the wider economy and the U.S. position in the world continue to unfold.”
When the unconventional drilling revolution began a decade ago, the prevailing assumption was that the domestic supply base was dwindling and that the country would become dependent on importing liquefied natural gas (LNG).
Instead, a “wholesale turnaround” led U.S. output to increase by more than 40% from 2007-2017, while real natural gas prices fell by two-thirds during the period.
In contrast to assumptions about dwindling gas supply a decade ago, the United States is now on track to become one of the world’s major LNG exporters.
IHS Markit expects domestic LNG export capacity to more than double in the next five years and rise to at least 10 Bcf/d by 2023. BP plc and ExxonMobil Corp., mirroring others that separately track energy supply/demand trends, also expect to see substantial growth in LNG trade worldwide, with the United States one of the leaders
The most dramatic effect from the growth in domestic gas supply has been on the U.S. electric power industry, according to IHS Markit. Where coal and nuclear had previously dominated the growth in share of U.S. electric power generation, natural gas has become a “backbone of electric generation” and regularly competes with coal for the largest share of total electric generation.
By 2040, the natural gas share is forecast to increase to nearly half from about one-third of all electricity generated in the United States, researchers said.
Increases in gas output also have led to reducing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. Last year, CO2 emissions from power generation were down an estimated 30% from 2005, with more than half of the decline from gas replacing coal, IHS Markit reported.
Unconventional drilling also has boosted U.S. oil supply, which between 2008 and 2018 has more than doubled and exceeded the previous high mark set in 1970, the researchers said.
“On a net basis, the United States went from importing 60% of its liquid fuel at the peak to below 16% in 2018 — and the share is still falling. The United States is now on track to be the world’s largest oil producer, ahead of Russia and Saudi Arabia, by early next year.”
The combined oil and gas gains also have reached into the manufacturing sector and the U.S. economy as a whole, according to the report.
More than $120 billion in capital investments is expected to be spent from 2012-2020 to expand U.S. petrochemical manufacturing capacity “because of abundant and inexpensive natural gas and natural gas liquids providing advantages in terms of thermal energy, feedstock and electricity costs.” Ancillary investments could double that number, the report said.
Previous research by IHS Markit found that as many as four million direct, indirect and induced jobs could be supported by unconventional activity by 2025.
“U.S. power markets and the economy overall would look significantly different had the shale revolution not taken place,” said co-author Sam Andrus, executive director of IHS Markit. “The new outlook for natural gas cost and availability has created new possibilities for progress toward national goals of energy efficiency, cost efficiency, environmental protection and energy security. In short, the shale gale put a powerful new wind at America’s back.”
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