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World shale resources grow with reserves in new countries

Shale reserves around the world.

Energy Information Administration

Shale reserves around the world.

The list of countries where fracking could unlock oil and gas reserves grew this year. The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) released its newest “World Shale Resource Assessment” this year, adding Chad, Kazakhstan, Oman, and the United Arab Emirates to more than 40 countries with shale reserves.

This year’s survey found the world had 7,576 trillion cubic feet (TCF) of ‘unproved technically recoverable’ shale gas reserves. This number has grown since the first survey, in 2011, which estimated 6,622 TCF of the resource.

Those numbers include a downward revision for American shale gas reserves. The 2015 report estimated there was 622.5 TCF of recoverable shale gas in the U.S., enough to provide the U.S. with about 27 years’ worth of natural gas under current usage rates. In 2011, the EIA had estimated the U.S. had about 37 years’ worth of shale gas that was ‘technically recoverable.’

China leads the world in shale gas reserves, with more than 1,115 TCF. The U.S. is fourth, behind China, Argentina, and Algeria, according to the assessment.

Faouzi Aloulou, an EIA analyst, said the numbers only reflected what was technically recoverable. They don’t take into account the impact that economics or internal politics can play in extracting oil and gas in different countries.

“Just because it is technically recoverable doesn’t mean it will ever be recovered,” Aloulou said. “Some of that shale gas is not economical right now to extract. A lot of those reserves will never be recovered.”

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