The United States sits atop tremendous natural resources. Several studies have shown that recent innovations, particularly combining hydraulic fracturing with horizontal drilling, have unlocked vast new supplies of domestic natural gas that are plentiful enough to provide 100 years of supply at current demand levels. The challenge is that much of the United States' onshore natural gas resources are locked away in difficult-to-reach formations.
Unconventional gas is the collective term used to describe these types of resources and encompasses tight gas, shale gas and coal bed methane. We have been aware for decades that natural gas has been locked in shale and tight gas formations. The key has been finding and developing the advanced technologies to unlock these resources so they can be commercially viable.
In recent years, a combination of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing has enabled the energy industry to economically access and produce this gas. In hydraulic fracturing, a solution – primarily water and sand, mixed with a small amount of chemicals – is injected into the rock to open very thin cracks, allowing trapped natural gas to migrate up to the well. These technologies have been in use for decades. But by combining them, the United States has seen a turnaround in domestic gas production.
Learn more about the technology and process of finding and developing unconventional gas.
finding unconventional gas
Compared to conventional gas, unconventional gas reservoirs like tight gas and shale gas extend over much broader areas (hundreds or even thousands of square miles). However, finding the “sweet spots” in these large areas where the gas can be produced commercially is often difficult. Despite this fact, unconventional gas resources are being discovered across the world, and in the United States alone, shale formations are found everywhere from Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas to the upper Midwest, and from Colorado to Ohio, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and New York. Total U.S. natural gas resource estimates have increased 35 percent in just the last two years.
Learn more about America's abundant tight and shale gas resources.
See how unconventional gas' surface footprint compares to other energy sources.
Technology developed by the oil and gas industry has opened up vast energy resources across the country, which has resulted in a tremendous increase in U.S. oil and natural gas production and reserves.