In 2008 this country used 23.2 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. Of that 2.9 trillion cubic feet was imported, primarily (90%) from Canada.
Here are the pertinent figures from the EIA (Energy Information Administration).
- Natural gas - production: 582.2 billion cubic meters ( 20.5 trillion cubic feet)
- Natural gas - consumption: 657.2 billion cubic meters (23.2 trillion cubic feet)
- Natural gas - exports: 28.49 billion cubic meters ( 1.0 Trillion cubic feet)
- Natural gas - imports: 112.7 billion cubic meters ( 3.9 trillion cubic feet )
- LNG – Imports: 416.8 Billion Cubic Feet.
The United States is the Number one consumer of Natural gas, and the worlds second largest Producer. We have the 5th largest amount of proven reserves, and we are the number one importer, importing 17% of our natural gas consumption in 2008.
Five states: Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas, and Wyoming, currently produce about 80% of our domestic natural gas supply.
The existence of pipelines is a very important part of natural gas recovery. Indeed, if natural gas is produced by a well, and there is not a nearby pipeline to transport it, it is often burned off. Natural gas cannot reasonably be transported by trucks, or ships until it is either compressed into CNG, or liquefied into LNG. CNG is natural gas compressed to less that 1% of it’s volume, and is usually stored in tanks at about 2200 PSI. In terms of energy content (energy density), CNG takes up about 2 times the volume of LNG, and 4 times the volume of diesel fuel. LNG is natural gas that has been cooled to about minus 260 degrees Fahrenheit. At that temperature natural gas becomes a liquid. It has to be maintained at this temperature in special cryogenic (refrigerated) tanks, which adds to the high cost of LNG.
Here is an interesting discussion (and map) of current major natural gas pipelines in the US:
And, here is a map of conventional Gas Production wells in the US:
While not as complex as Crude Oil refining. Natural gas from the well is nowhere near pure. It has many other constituants from water to natural gas liquids (liquids closer to our familiar petrochemicals).. These have to be removed via various processing stages before the gas (now called dry gas) can be placed into a pipeline.
The actual methodology of quantifying and classifying reserves is rather complex. I am going to use the EIA's system (also used by the Natural Gas Association). I am also going to simplify a bit. In discussions, these distinctions are important, because various people will quote different numbers often to support a claim. There are also various different organizations with different estimates, albeit they normally end up pretty close.
The widest measure is the total estimated Resource base. This is an estimate of all possible estimated gas. For the US, this number is 1,747 trillion cubic feet. The vast majority of this gas is unrecoverable for various technical reasons. But the number pops up. It can be ignored!
Another distinction is between Conventional sources (Those trapped in reservoirs), and unconventional, gas trapped in structures that require non-conventional, and sometimes extreme, methods to recover them. These sources are further broken down into proved reserves – those that we know are there, and can be recovered, and unproved reserves – another way of saying we THINK they are there based on geology and surveys. The Unconventional reserves estimate below includes both proved and unproved, as it is hard to separate them. So, some numbers:
- US Conventional Proved Reserves - 211.9 Trillion Cubic Feet
- US Conventional Unproved Reserves - 373.4 Trillon Cubic Feet
- US Unconventional Reserves - 644.9 Trillion Cubic Feet. (This includes)
- Tight Gas – 309.5 Trillion Cubic Feet
- Shale Gas – 267.2 Trillion Cubic Feet
- Coal Methane – 68.1 Trillion Cubic Feet
It is important to note, that according to the Natural Gas Association, Tight Gas is extremely hard to extract. As to shale gas, the above number is from EIA. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) puts the estimate at 742 Trillion Cubic Feet. However, according to the Natural Gas Association it is expected only about 10% of the shale gas can actually be extracted (Produced).
A recent (December 2009) report on Gas shale was produced by Advanced Resources International and presented at the United Nations Climate Change Conference. This report focuses on the “Magnificent Seven” North American Gas Shales – the primary resources on the North American Continent. 5 are in the US, and 2 are in Canada. They reached the following conclusions as to our North American Supply.
- US (5 basins) – Total reserves: 3,760 Trillion Cu Ft. - Recoverable reserves: 475 Trillon Cubic Feet
- Canada (2 Basins) - Total reserves: 1,380 Trillion Cu Ft. - Recoverable reserves: 240 Trillon Cubic Feet
This report puts our total recoverable US Shale Gas at 475 Cubic Feet. Less than the FERC, but more than the Natural Gas Association, and a little less than the EIA Estimates. As should be obvious there is just a little bit of uncertainty and disagreement about how much Gas shale actually exists and is recoverable. The truth likely lies somewhere in the middle...
You can read the entire report here:
Finally, This quote is taken directly from the Natural Gas Association Web Site:
“In recent years, demand for natural gas has grown substantially. However, as the natural gas industry in the United States becomes more mature, domestically available resources become harder to find and produce. As large, conventional natural gas deposits are extracted, the natural gas left in the ground is commonly found in less conventional deposits, which are harder to discover and produce than has historically been the case. However, the natural gas industry has been able to keep pace with demand, and produce greater amounts of natural gas despite the increasingly unconventional and elusive nature. The ability of the industry to increase production in this manner has been a direct result of technological innovations.”
You can read more about our Natural Gas Supply at their website: