The surge in shale gas production is transforming the North American energy market.
Shale rock has long been known to contain natural gas in many areas, but previous drilling techniques were unable to free most of the trapped gas so that it could flow to a well. The industry realized that shale held enormous energy potential if production could be made feasible. Ultimately, a combination of innovations provided the solution. New drilling techniques and hydraulic fracturing, a process used safely over a million times since the late 1940s on other rock formations, have been combined to make shale both productive and economic.
Technology Unlocks Shale's Potential
Beginning in the 1980s, technological advancements made it possible to drill wells that curved out laterally at the bottom for hundreds of feet. Today, lateral sections may be many thousands of feet long, thus giving the wellbores contact with significant amounts of gas-bearing shale. In combination with hydraulic fracturing, horizontal wells made commercial production of shale gas feasible in the 1990s. Refinement of the processes has continued ever since.
Watch the drilling and completions process here.
An Abundant Energy Source
In the United States, shale rock is found in numerous large regional deposits that span thousands of square miles and even entire states. These shale formations, or plays, can hold substantial amounts of natural gas, oil or both. Vast new resource trends have been identified, among them the Barnett in north Texas and Eagle Ford in south Texas, Haynesville in Louisiana, and Marcellus in the mid-Atlantic States. This newfound abundance of economically recoverable shale gas has improved North America's energy outlook dramatically in only 10 years. According to the Department of Energy, production of shale gas is expected to continue to increase to 46 percent of U.S. total natural gas supplies in 2035 from 14 percent in 2009.
Total U.S. natural gas resources now constitute more than a century of supply, an abundance that has reduced uncertainty and price volatility in the natural gas market. Additionally, the innovative technologies that made this surge in shale gas production possible are now being used in shale deposits in Canada and other countries.
The development and production of shale-gas deposits is bringing economic stimulation and job creation to several areas of the U.S., while providing an increasing and affordable supply of natural gas to meet America's energy needs.