Is Natural Gas Really the Next Big Thing? Part 2

A WCTA White Paper: J. Thomas Ranken, Washington Clean Technology Alliance, May 2012.  See part 1 here.

Natural Gas Supplies are Up Dramatically

The statistics are intriguing.  From 1990 to 2010, global proved reserves of natural gas have increased by 49%.  From 2000 to 2010, they increased by 21%.[1]  The International Energy Agency (IEA) has estimated global gas resources at 32,000 trillion cubic feet, the energy equivalent of about 6 trillion barrels of oil.[2]  This, according to Manhattan Institute Senior Fellow Robert Bryce, “is more than double the estimate for global gas resources that the (IEA) put forward in 2008.”[3]  The top twenty countries with the largest natural gas reserves (as of January 1, 2011) were: Russia, Iran, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United States, Turkmenistan, United Arab Emirates, Nigeria, Venezuela, and Algeria.  Significant natural gas fields may further develop in Poland, France, Turkey, South Africa, Morocco, Chile, Mexico, Libya, Argentina, Brazil, Australia, China, and Canada.  Other regions may yield additional new discoveries.  In Mexico, for example, as of yet, there has been little exploration.[4]

Natural Gas Production[5]

Rank

Country/Region

Annual natural gas production (m³)

Date

World

3,127,000,000,000

2008 est.

1

Russia

612,100,000,000

2010 est.

2

United States

611,100,000,000

2010 est.

European Union

182,300,000,000

2010 est.

3

Canada

152,300,000,000

2010 est.

4

Iran

138,500,000,000

2010 est.

5

India

120,000,000,000

2011

6

Qatar

116,700,000,000

2010 est.

7

Norway

106,300,000,000

2010 est.

8

China

94,410,000,000

2010 est.

9

Netherlands

85,170,000,000

2010 est.

10

Algeria

85,140,000,000

2010 est.

11

Saudi Arabia

83,940,000,000

2010 est.

12

Indonesia

82,800,000,000

2010 est.

13

Egypt

62,690,000,000

2009 est.

14

Uzbekistan

61,410,000,000

2009 est.

15

Mexico

59,070,000,000

2010 est.

16

Malaysia

58,600,000,000

2009 est.

17

United Kingdom

56,300,000,000

2010 est.

18

United Arab Emirates

48,840,000,000

2009 est.

19

Australia

45,110,000,000

2010 est.

20

Trinidad and Tobago

42,380,000,000

2010 est.

World Shale Gas Resources[6]

In the US, significant reserves are being found in New York, Pennsylvania, Texas, Montana, and North Dakota.  “Domestic gas resources should easily last many decades,” says Bryce.[7]  In fact, in a marked change from forecasts of just a few years ago, most analysts believe that North America will be a net exporter of natural gas into the foreseeable future.  Howard Gruenspecht, Acting Administrator of the EIA, says that it is likely the United States will become a net exporter of natural gas early in the next decade.[8] [9]  The market is reacting:  Houston-based Cheniere Energy Partners is investing $6 billion for the first new plant capable of exporting natural gas by ship to be built in the U.S. since 1969.  The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is expected to approve the construction and operating permit as early as the first part of 2012.[10]


[1] Proved reserves are defined as the amount of known energy sources that are recoverable at economically viable costs.

[2] Resources may not be economically recoverable.

[3] Robert Bryce, Ten Reasons Why Natural Gas Will Fuel the Future (Center for Energy Policy and the Environment, Manhattan Institute for Policy Research: April 2010) pp. 1-2.

[4] John Deutch, “The Good News about Gas:  The Natural Gas Revolution and Its Consequences,” Foreign Affairs, Vol. 90 No. 1 (January/February 2011): 85.

[5] U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, The World Factbook (March 2012) https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/rankorder/2180rank.html

[6] U.S. Energy Information Administration, World Shale Gas Resources:  An Initial Assessment of 14 Regions Outside the United States (Washington, DC: April 2011).

[7] Op. Cit., Bryce, p. 1.

[8] Howard Gruenspecht, Statement before U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, 31 January 2012.

[9] In early 2012, technically recoverable resource (TRR) estimates of Marcellus shale substantially decreased from 410 trillion cubic feet (TCF) to 141 TCF.  This resulted in a reduction in total U.S. TRR reserves to 482 TCF from an earlier estimate of 827 TCF.  Total production, however, was forecast to increase seven percent more than in the earlier estimate.  U.S. Energy Information Agency, Annual Energy Outlook 2012 Early Release Overview (23 January 2012).

[10] Rich Miller, Asjylyn Loder, and Jim Polson (Bloomberg News), “U.S. Closing in on Energy Independence,” The Seattle Times, 8 February 2012, p. A3.

1 thought on “Is Natural Gas Really the Next Big Thing? Part 2

  1. Perhaps with the abundance of this natural resourse the question is not how much there is but how are we going to use it within the clean tech (energy) world. Could it economically displace coal fuelled power generation? Upgrading coal fired generation with natural gas fired co-generation could reduce carbon per MWh of electricical generation by close to 80% perhaps without an increase in cost of power, but where would all that heat go?

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