Natural Gas

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Executive Summary

Shale gas production in the United States grew at an average annual rate of 17 percent between 2000 and 2006. Early success in shale gas production was achieved primarily in the Barnett Shale in Texas. By 2006, the success in the Barnett shale, coupled with high natural gas prices and technological improvements, turned the industry focus to other shale plays. The combination of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing technologies has made it possible to produce shale gas economically, leading to an average annual growth rate of 48 percent over the 2006-2010 period.

Market Trends

Unlike crude oil prices, natural gas prices do not return to the higher levels recorded before the 2007-2009 recession (Figure 86). Although some supply factors continue to relate the two markets loosely, the two do not track directly (Figure 87). The large difference between crude oil and natural gas prices results in a shift in drilling toward shale formations with high concentrations of liquids.

Issues in Focus

Production of natural gas from large underground shale formations (shale gas) in the United States grew by an average of 17 percent per year from 2000 to 2006. Early successes in shale gas production occurred primarily in the Barnett Shale of north central Texas. By 2006, successful shale gas operations in the Barnett shale, improvements in shale gas recovery technologies, and attractive natural gas prices encouraged the industry to accelerate its development activity in other shale plays. The combination of two technologies—horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing—made it possible to produce shale gas economically, and from 2006 to 2010 U.S. shale gas production grew by an average of 48 percent per year. Further increases in shale gas production are expected, with total production growing by almost threefold from 2009 to 2035 in the AEO2011 Reference case. However, there is a high degree of uncertainty around the projection, starting with the estimated size of the technically recoverable shale gas resource.



  1. AEO Natural Gas