U.S. shale gas reserve estimates plummet

Estimates of 2012 shale natural gas reserves in the U.S. represent a shocking step backward for the rapidly growing industry, according to Bloomberg.

The projections released by the U.S. Department of Energy estimate that the country holds around 482 trillion cubic feet of recoverable natural gas from shale basins. That represents a 42 percent decline from 2011 when estimates of shale gas reserves were placed at around 827 trillion cubic feet.

The declines stemmed from more detailed information available because of the dramatic uptick in natural gas exploration in shale deposits over the past year.

Probably the most substantial impact of the updated estimates, however, was the 66 percent reduction in recoverable reserves in the Marcellus shale formation in Pennsylvania, New York, Ohio and West Virginia.

In 2011 that basin was estimated to hold 410 trillion cubic feet of gas, enough to fill U.S. gas demand for 17 years at 2010 levels. Now that number has been reduced to 141 trillion cubic feet, or around 6 years.

Nevertheless, the DOE estimates natural gas production will rise even higher than previously predicted despite the smaller resource base.

Analyses of Marcellus shale basin natural gas development can be found at PennEnergy's Research area.

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