Shale energy: From “unconventional” to “traditional”

Perspectives blog
Ken Cohen - Apr. 10, 2015

Four months ago I asked if energy from shale should still be described as “unconventional.” After all, oil and natural gas production from U.S. shale fields is redrawing the country’s energy picture. I figured it was time to rethink some of the terms we’d been using. Perhaps, I suggested, we should think about retiring the term “unconventional.”

Looks like I was on to something.

This week the Potential Gas Committee unveiled its biennial assessment of the nation’s natural gas resources.

It found that assessed resources of 2,515 trillion cubic feet of U.S. natural gas were nearly 6 percent higher than in their previous assessment two years ago. This is the highest resource evaluation in the 50-year history of the Committee.

One passage from the PGC’s press release caught my eye (highlight is mine):

The Committee’s year-end 2014 assessment of 2,515 Tcf includes 2,357 Tcf of gas potentially recoverable from “Traditional” reservoirs (conventional, tight sands and carbonates, and shales) and 158 Tcf in coalbed reservoirs. Compared to year-end 2012, assessed Traditional resources increased by 131.2 Tcf (5.9%), while coalbed gas resources declined by a nominal 0.2 Tcf (0.1%), resulting in a net increase in total potential resources of 131.0 Tcf (5.5%).

Got that? So-called unconventional natural gas from shale is now considered “traditional.”

Just another example of how shale energy is upending traditional notions of U.S. resource scarcity that have prevailed for decades. That’s a point government leaders need to realize when considering the nation’s energy policies, whether the issue is Keystone XL, oil and natural gas exports, or any of a number of other topics.

Tags:   emerging energy markethydraulic fracturing
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