Department of Energy Reduces Marcellus Shale Estimates

  • Susan Phillips

The U.S. Department of Energy has revised their estimate of how much natural gas could be extracted from the Marcellus Shale. The projection adds more uncertainty to how long the state’s drilling boom will last.
Last summer, the U.S. Geological Survey released an estimation that was 80 percent lower than the Department of Energy’s projection at that time. That large disparity forced the D.O.E’s Energy Information Agency to take a new look at the data. On Monday, the Department of Energy released its “Annual Energy Outlook for 2012.” That report reduced their previous estimate of potential recoverable gas reserves by two-thirds.
Travis Windle is a spokesman for the Marcellus Shale Coalition, an industry group based in Canonsburg, Pa. He says it’s not easy to project a hard and fast number.

“There’s a lot of variables, there’s a lot of unknowns,” said Windle. There’s a lot of information we’re trying to gather about the host of geological factors that determine how much natural gas is viable and can be produced in a way that’s economical.”

Those variables include the thickness of the shale, the depth of the shale, and whether the shale contains dry or wet gas. Windle says there’s a history of ebb and flow with energy resource projections. He says new technological developments could make more of the gas available to drillers, and so change future estimates of recoverable gas. Although the D.O.E’s report reduces their previous estimates of “unproved, technically recoverable” natural gas within the Marcellus, it predicts natural gas production will continue to grow. And as the U.S. relies more on domestic sources of natural gas, imports from Canada will decrease. The report also says by 2016, the U.S. will be a net exporter of liquefied natural gas.