The huge potential of unconventional gas
Unconventional gas is abundantly available and present on every continent. It has triggered a paradigm shift in the North American gas market and has the potential to reshape the global gas sector as well. With resources comparable to the volumes of conventional gas, unconventional resources will be a valuable asset in devising a lasting response to steadily rising demand.
Rising demand for gas
Unconventional gas has the potential to contribute significantly to the replacement of gas resources. With production rising at an average annual rate of nearly 3% over the past thirty years, natural gas is the fossil fuel that has shown the steadiest growth.
There are still huge volumes of gas in the ground. At the current rate of consumption, known resources are sufficient to meet global needs for more than fifty years. The extremely high potential of unconventional gas should extend for many more years the petroleum industry’s capacity to meet global energy needs – particularly the foreseeable growth in the share of natural gas in electric power generation.
According to the United States Energy Information Administration (EIA), the volume of shale gas, tight gas and coalbed methane resources is currently estimated at 380,000 billion cubic meters (BCM) – equivalent to about 50% of global gas resources.
Shale gas accounts for the biggest share of these resources. The fact that gas shales, the source rock that gives rise to this unconventional resource, are much more extensive than traditional gas reservoirs and present on every continent considerably enhances the exploration outlook.
The American gas boom
The United States has recaptured its rank as the world’s leading producer of natural gas thanks to unconventional gas. The country pioneered the development of this resource and continues to lead the sector today.
The development of shale gas did not begin until the 1990s, spearheaded by small independent producers. The more recent arrival of industry heavyweights proficient in advanced production technologies has spurred growth in shale gas production, which will be the major driver of natural gas growth in the United States in the future. The share of shale gas is projected to rise quickly from its current 14% of natural gas production (65 million cubic meters - MMC per year) to 20%, then jump to 45% by 2035, substantially outstripping growth in both tight gas and coalbed methane, whose production volumes are expected to remain constant.
This American shale gas revolution, riding the wave of soaring growth, is an example unmatched in the world. Elsewhere across the globe, source rock geology, gas volume estimates and production economics are surrounded by significant uncertainties. Resolving them will require several more years of surveys and analysis.
Unconventional gas, resources for the future