The Potential Gas Committee released the results of its latest biennial assessment of U.S. natural gas resources, which indicates that the country possesses a total mean technically recoverable resource base of 3,374 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) as of year-end 2018.

This is the highest resource evaluation in the Committee’s 54-year history. It exceeds the previous high assessment (from year-end 2016) by 557 Tcf (an increase of about 20%).

This is also the largest two-year increase in absolute resources between evaluations in the Committee's history. The increase resulted from reassessments of shale gas resources in the Atlantic and Mid-Continent areas and conventional and tight gas in the Mid-Continent and Rocky Mountain areas.

The assessment includes 3,218 Tcf of gas potentially recoverable from “traditional” reservoirs (conventional, tight sands, carbonates and shales) and 157 Tcf in coalbed gas reservoirs.

Recoverable natural gas resources are at their highest level in the assessment's 54-year history. Source: Wyoming Public MediaRecoverable natural gas resources are at their highest level in the assessment's 54-year history. Source: Wyoming Public MediaCompared to year-end 2016, traditional resources increased by 559 Tcf (21%). Coalbed gas resources decreased by about 2 Tcf.

Record August

In mid-September, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) said that U.S. natural gas production set a daily production record of 92.8 billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/d) on Aug. 19, 2019. Natural gas production also set a new monthly record in August, averaging more than 91 Bcf/d for the first time. EIA forecasts dry natural gas production to average 93.4 Bcf/d from September through the end of the year. U.S. natural gas production increased by 7.1 Bcf/d (8%) between August 2018 and August 2019, led by production gains primarily in the Northeast.

Proved gas reserves

The Committee assesses technically recoverable resources and does not consider a specific price or schedule for the discovery and production of gas. EIA estimates the proved gas reserves, which are additional to the resources assessed by the Potential Gas Committee. When both assessments are combined, the U.S. future supply of natural gas stands at a record 3,838 Tcf, an increase of 697 Tcf (22%) over the previous evaluation.

More well drilling and ongoing improvements in completion and stimulation technologies are credited with better delineation and characterization of U.S. gas resources, especially in shale and tight reservoirs.

Four regions

According to the assessment, the Atlantic area ranks as the country’s richest resource area with 41% of total U.S. traditional resources. That is followed by the Mid-Continent with 19%, the Gulf Coast (including the Gulf of Mexico) with 16% and Rocky Mountains with 16%. Changes in the total assessment from year-end 2016 to year-end 2018 rose primarily from the evaluation of recent drilling, well-test and production data from these four areas.

Source: EIASource: EIAThe largest volumetric gains (264 Tcf or 25%) were reported in the Atlantic area. The major reason for the increase is new drilling and production results from Marcellus and Utica shale plays in the Appalachian basin.

Mid-Continent assessments rose by 245 Tcf (66%), reflecting intensive developments of conventional, tight and shale reservoirs in the Permian Basin. In its resource evaluation, the Committee accounted for additional zones and potential well locations associated with stacked pays recently developed in this area.

Gas resources in the Rocky Mountain area increased by 65 Tcf (15%). This resource growth reflects large revisions in the Williston Basin and the Denver Basin. The updated assessment more rigorously accounted for the gas associated with production of liquids in those basins.

The Gulf Coast area had a decrease of 22 Tcf (4%). The main reason for reduction was downsizing of the type of well in the Eagle Ford play, and lack of resource additions to replace production from the Eagle Ford and the Haynesville shale plays.

The Committee said that the importance of shale gas is evidenced by the fact that the mean total assessed shale gas resource of 2,107 Tcf for year-end 2018 accounts for roughly 62% of the country’s total potential resources. The growth of shale gas resources from year-end 2016 to year-end 2018 was 310 Tcf (17%).

The Potential Gas Committee includes roughly 80 volunteer members who work in the natural gas exploration, production, transportation and distribution industries, and in technical services and consulting sectors. The Potential Gas Agency at the Colorado School of Mines provides the Committee with guidance, technical assistance, training and administrative support, and assists in member recruitment and outreach. The Agency receives financial support from prominent E&P companies, gas pipeline companies and distributors, trade associations and individuals.