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IEA: Natural Gas Can Supply World For 250 Years

Thursday, 20 January 2011 09:51 United Press International

Supplies of natural gas could last more than 250 years if Asian and European economies follow the U.S. unconventional reserves, the IEA said.

The abundance of shale gas and other forms of so-called unconventional gas discovered in the United States prompted a global rush to explore for the new resource.

The International Energy Agency said Australia is taking the lead in the push toward unconventional gas, though China, India and Indonesia are close behind. European companies are taking preliminary steps to unlock unconventional gas as are other regions.

“Production of ‘unconventional’ gas in the U.S. has rocketed in the past few years, going beyond even the most optimistic forecasts,” said Anne-Sophie Corbeau, a gas analyst at the IEA. “It is no wonder that its success has sparked such international interest.”

Shale gas production in the United States is booming and the IEA estimates that unconventional gas makes up around 12 percent of the global supply.

Global supplies of natural gas could last for another 130 years at current consumption rates. That time frame could double with unconventional gas, the IEA said.

“Despite the many uncertainties associated with production, countries are still prepared to take risks and invest time and money in exploration and production, because of the potential long-term benefits,” Corbeau said.

from the GWPF


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John Marshall

Plenty out there. Methane digesters produce methane from rubbish which is better than burying it.


The bottom line: The more shale gas available means gas prices will be kept low and there will be less need for coal generation, CCS technology, heavily subsidised renewables or carbon trading markets.
Shale gas is a game changer.


Well, not to be a old stick-in-the-mud, but I can hear the moaning from the ecoloons already: ” But what will we do 251 years from now? Think of posterity!”

Sean Houlihane

This is talking about gas demand alone, not energy supply including oil? Or are they claiming that the peak-oil event will not be soon unless other factors reduce the demand through normal economic models?


Beware – corporate monopolists (Gazprom) and environmental Malthusians (Tyndall Centre) want to stop this for environmental reasons, although at a first glance the environmental issues look thoroughly manageable, compared with say biofuels. However, we cannot have prosperity and economic and social progress, can we? Fortunately the sensible countries are driving on with this anyway, and others (e.g. UK) will just be left behind.

Hmm, the Economist had a similar argument some months ago, positing that “natural gas is becoming lot more like coal and less like crude” (or something to that effect), in the sense that reserves for NG were lengthening to centuries’ worth (like coal) rather than decades as previously thought (like crude).
Looks like “peak hydrocarbon” won’t be reached for hundreds of years yet, assuming we can manage the noted production issues…

That should read “becoming _a_ lot more like” in my earlier comment.


Should read…apart from the UK
Shale gas moratorium in UK urged by Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research –

keith at hastings uk

“Peak oil” has become a refuge for CAGW believers still intent upon taxing “carbon” and covering the world with windmills. Good to see yet another hiding place being demolished. Wonder how the Japanese are getting on with exploiting methane clathrates (and the Indians with Thorium reactor research?
Meantime, we in UK expecting the lights to go out, if Mr Huhne stays in charge of energy policy.


The downside to shale is that high volumes of fluid are needed to create the network of ruptures in the shale that allows the trapped gas to escape.
Disposing of that fluid is the problem.
It is laden with biocides to reduce fouling. In addition it picks up other substances, some of which may be very undesirable, while getting squirted into rock under high pressure. Absent very stringent supervision, these fluids will just be dumped at the surface and represent a large new pollution source.


Is this development due to the free market and and private profit-driven technological creativity?


So if the original gas reserves are being referred to as “natural gas”, then why isn’t this new stuff “unnatural gas” ?

Bruce Cobb

Though there are some environmental concerns, primarily risks to groundwater, shale gas could be a world-wide political game-changer. Best of all, it will throw a monkey wrench into the renewable energy industry, being far cheaper, and, for the carbophobists, it produces half the C02 that coal does. It also could be cheaper than nuclear.


Peter Foster’s commentary at the National Post:
“China reportedly has some two-thirds of the US$39-billion global market for solar panels, but it doesn’t use them very much. Why? Because they’re uneconomic.”

Mike from Canmore

I remember reading in Flannery’s Weathermakers, about how gas was going to run out in 40 years or something ridiculous like that. It could be longer but I refuse to punish myself by opening that waste of paper ever again. No matter, another one wrong!!! I recall laughing and thinking to myself, I’ll betcha somebody will figure out where or how to get more.

Pamela Gray

My thoughts:
One: Anything being extracted from the ground other than open pit coal and sweet oil is gonna be more expensive, even without environmental controls.
Two: While the number said to be peak oil is hard to quantify, one thing is a for sure thing, energy extraction of any kind is a self-limiting endeavor.
Three: However, we harvest crop energy all the time, such as oil, and regrow it every year. We also produce the stuff to put in ethenol, and regrow that every year.
Four: The fly in that ointment is that if you also want the world to eat less meat, you have to increase vegetarian protein production, which would fight for the same land being used to produce crop energy. You can’t do both for an ever growing population without getting into some heated arguments.
Five: So, if you want to grow energy, something I think is doable, you have to admit that changing omnivores into herbivores along side increased crop energy production is just fantasy pot-smoking thinking.

And not considering clathrates: significant deposits of methane clathrate have been found under sediments on the ocean floors of Earth.….where, obviously all organic sea creatures go when dying

David Ball

Here is the original from USGS. So much for peak oil BS – Even when considering that only 20-40% is recoverable with current technology, peak oil is just another scare tactic.


Wonderful! (and I’m not trying to be facetious, either). I believe the more CO2 we put into the atmosphere, the better it is for our friends the plants; we are the immediate beneficiaries. Let those who eschew CO2 figure out a way to backtrack on their nay-saying when future trends indicate practically all aspects of a warmer, CO-richer world are positive.
I’m just wondering how all those recently-installed windmills located just to the southeast of me will fare; will they eventually be abandoned and dismantled as their ROI suddenly has turned negative?


UK government;
‘We can’t hear you – la-la-la – we must cover out tiny islands with windmills – la-la-la – we’ve passed a law to reduce our CO2 emissions by 80% – la-la-la – not interested that this figure is impossible – la-la-la – we’re only fifteen years behind with building new nuclear power stations – la-la-la – lots of gas..? Don’t believe it – la-la-la….’

Bruce Cobb

Sean Houlihane says:
January 21, 2011 at 4:45 am
This is talking about gas demand alone, not energy supply including oil? Or are they claiming that the peak-oil event will not be soon unless other factors reduce the demand through normal economic models?
I guess I must have missed the part in the article where they discuss “peak oil” (though I checked several times). Perhaps it’s hiding in the same place as Trenbilge’s “missing heat”?

David O.

re: Etudiant
The industry has been fracking wells for decades. The fluids have not been, are not now, and will not be just dumped at the surface. Take a look, for example, at BLM rules.
re: pyromancer76
100%. No tax incentives. No subsidies.


250 years is a lot of gas. Sadly, for most people it is another reason to believe in climate change.

David O.

The keys to this historic success have been engineering inventiveness in drilling and completion technologies, together with recognition by geologists of the vast recoverable resources in rocks previously considered to be non-prospective. Those who, like me, have been in the industry for decades are simulataneously astounded and proud as hell.
This is the latest example of the abject failure of Ehrlich (Population Bomb) and Club of Rome (Limits to Growth), both of which sucked me in when they were published. They simply didn’t understand the nature of resources, and they completely discounted the world’s capacity for invention. Those were world-class misjudgements, and they still don’t get it.

To me ‘natural gas’ in the ground is an oxymoron. From cows and swamps, not at all.
There has been a lot of suppressing cautions – as noted by etudiant – in Coal Ash and Shale Gas both. Sourcewatch has an article on Coal Ash which is a good overview. Shale Gas is, however, as etudiant says, a notable pollution source.
We do not need to ‘wait for the future’ for an evaluation.
I’ve collected water related news both in RSS aggregation, Searchbots and general news for quite a while now. The file is and the blog is Searchable.
Of the articles I’ve noted, the clarity of one stands out

Alexander K

The UK government’s attitude to energy is alarming – they are embracing windmills ( I smiled when a mental picture emerged of politicians being shredded as I wrote that!) but avoiding a serious examination of Shale Gas. Scotland began to develop an ‘oil’ industry over a century ago, extracting volatiles from shale, but the then-new cheap stuff from the USA closed down the Scottish possibilities. I am sure that the mental logjams the UK is suffering at the moment will be blown apart when the UK’s citizenry realise they are being regarded as ignorant fools by their own politicians, who are attempting to be suitably Green and don’t realise that they are standing in a queue waiting for a bus that has departed long ago..


Bruce Cobb says:
January 21, 2011 at 5:59 am
Though there are some environmental concerns, primarily risks to groundwater,

Concerns have been over-blown:
Shale deposits are typically thousands of feet below ground water.
Newer mixes of fracturing fluid have been using more non-toxic (common food additives) surfactants or substituting compressed gas (nitrogen) for water.
Contamination, if it happens, will most likely come from poor installation of the well bore liner. Inspections and fining the crap out of drillers that cut corners could keep this problem to a minimum.
The ‘flaming’ drinking water is almost always due to people drawing drinking water that passes through coal seems. The gas is naturally occurring from shallow methane pockets or bio-genic gas (bacteria feasting on hydrocarbons) and not from drilling.


We have huge shale deposits here that are making millionaires out of folks in NW Louisiana. Shale gas is definitely a game changer, but it needs stronger dedicated markets for the purchase of the product. Natural gas prices are very low right now while the price of crude is relatively high. A significant expansion of shale gas production would further reduce the price and diminish exploration.
If our “leaders” would put as much emphasis on encouraging natural gas powered vehicles as they do electric vehicles, the market for natural gas would expand and guarantee a decent return on exploration and production investments.
Unfortunately, too many of our leaders are too busy trying to remove carbon from the Periodic Chart of the Elements to champion a fantastic source of clean, domestically produced energy.

John Peter

Pamela Gray stated ”
Five: So, if you want to grow energy, something I think is doable, you have to admit that changing omnivores into herbivores along side increased crop energy production is just fantasy pot-smoking thinking.”
I thought that feeding animals for human consumption required more arable land than providing the same amount of food for vegetarians.

Douglas DC

Our local Wind company in NE Oregon is build a gas plant in Idaho as we speak.

The magnitude of some things isn’t understood at the beginning. The invention of the first transistor is the foundation of the digital age – but the absolute revolution it caused in how we “know” and “remember” and “communicate” couldn’t be imagined. I suspect shale gas might be almost that big of a sleeper. There is so much of it and it is so clean it will completely transform the “energy economy” over the next half century. I have my doubts about its utility as a motor fuel – but we will heat our homes and generate electricity with it almost exclusively. The current low prices in gas have turned gas turbines into really efficient generating plants, right now! Gas plants are small and distributed – a real plus in reducing transmission costs and improving reliability. These are peaking units! They aren’t designed to be the most cost efficient generating stations – they are designed to meet peak demand. Anyway its really exciting. Instead of an energy crisis, we have discovered the planet is one big energy oasis. And for the AGW fretters; gas releases 40% less CO2 during combustion than coal.

Canadian Mike

Under my plan of a cap and trade system, electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket. Even regardless of what I say about whether coal is good or bad. Because I’m capping greenhouse gases, coal power plants, you know, natural gas, you name it — whatever the plants were, whatever the industry was, uh, they would have to retrofit their operations. That will cost money. They will pass that money on to consumers.
– Barack Obama Jan. 2008
Anyone who thinks Obama and company will allow a the development of clean, safe, inexpensive energy hasn’t been paying attention in class.


Cheap Natural Gas and Its Democrat Enemies
This article came out a year ago:


The UK is developping shale gas. The stuff at blackpool is expected to provide more than 5% of uk gas requirements.
Natural gas is how they provide fertilizer too isn’t it? That presumably has some implications for food security in regions of the world.


This article came out a year ago:
Cheap Natural Gas and Its Democrat Enemies


Just a few years ago, the environmentalist saw natural gas as a nice ‘bridge fuel’ from oil and coal based energy, toward their next generation energy source. One of the reasons they like natural gas, is that it emitted almost half the CO2 per btu energy vs other hydrocarbon sources. But now that these new unconventional sources for natural gas are popping up, the environmentalists see natural gas as a ‘bridge too far’, hundreds of years of supply will inhibit the development of their pet renewable energy sources. So they have now turned against natural gas development.
One of the ways to attack unconventional gas development is to raise issues about fracture stimulation, (without fracturing, you can’t develop unconventional shale gas). That is what is behind a new EPA study. despite the fact that it has been studied by Sandia, GRI, and many universities for 60 years.


I may have understood this incorrectly, but didn’t I read on this blog a while back that there is a technology to convert this natural gas to liquid fuels like gasoline and diesel? If that were so, couldn’t this be a replacement for oil instead of just a supplement?

Bob Layson

If fracking results in fewer deaths, per year per unit of energy obtained, than does coal mining then it should be no more illegal than coal mining.
People can be made afraid of new sources of potential injury, always greatly exagerated, when more familiar and far more deadly processes are accepted as part of normal production in an advanced industrial economy.

John Page

David (6.51am)
Spot on summary of UK government energy policy. There’s a vacancy for a No 10 spin doctor now 🙂

Tom B says:
January 21, 2011 at 8:21 am
I may have understood this incorrectly, but didn’t I read on this blog a while back that there is a technology to convert this natural gas to liquid fuels like gasoline and diesel? If that were so, couldn’t this be a replacement for oil instead of just a supplement?
They are playing around creating methane hydrates. Basically mixing methane and water. They discovered them in much greater abundance that they had seen before when they started recovering shale oil and gas. But the idea is to transport the gas as a hydrate CNG and LNG (compressed natural gas and liquefied natural gas) are expensive and challenging transport technologies. ButI don’t think methane hydrates are fall down easy to make and unmake either. Usually there are readers who know a whole lot more about this stuff than I do. What issues do we have with methane hydrates? What potentials?


The most recent Oil and Gas Journal has a full page ad for CleanStim, a hydraulic fracturing fluid made from “ingredients sourced in the food industry”. I suppose the greens will cry “rising food prices”, but you got to hand it to those oil companies, staying ahead of the issues while keeping us supplied with fuel. Now, if we could just get our bankers and government to perform as well……..
Incidentally, I was just in Delhi, and every beat up bus and tuk-tuk is running on CNG. We need to do more of that here, and put more of that cheap natural gas to work.

Henry chance

If you all want disinformation on gas production, Joe Romm does a great job.
REPLY: Also bear in mind that Romm is a paid blogger, part on an larger organization funded by Soros among other people. The parent organization, the Center for American Progress gets about 30 million annually in funding according to IRS filings. – Anthony


“250 years is a lot of gas”
That’s always presaged with ‘at current consumption rates’.
50 years ago we believed we had an unlimited supply of oil and we used it for everything. Transportation fuel, home heating fuel and electricity generation fuel.
We still have some people stuck with oil heat for their homes and it took 40 years to phase out oil as a fuel for electrical generation in the US.
Worldwide there are 11 million CNG vehicles on the road and that number is rising.

The shale gas boom is on in Texas and has been for years. Wells tapping into the Barnet Shale can be seen all over the DFW metroplex and surrounding countryside.


Tom B says:
January 21, 2011 at 8:21 am
I may have understood this incorrectly, but didn’t I read on this blog a while back that there is a technology to convert this natural gas to liquid fuels like gasoline and diesel?

Its called GTL. The Pearl GTL plant in Qatar is scheduled to be online in 2012. Its run by Shell with Sasol’s Co. technology. There are two American companies that also offer similar technology.

George E. Smith

I’m all for shale gas; provided they scrub it of all the nasty carbon before they ship it to the consumer.
I no longer eat organic foods because of the poisonous carbon in it; so I don’t want carbon in my gas fuel either.
Anybody know just what (chemically) this shale gas consists of. Most hydrocarbons have some sort of chemical formula; does this stuff or is sort of atomically amorphous ?
I don’t even know what ordinary natural natural gas is; or gasoline for that matter; I’m sure that gasoline is not 87% C8H18


There are still some easy fixes out there that could make a significant difference. For example, In the US we burn on average 7.2 billion gallons of Fuel oil per year to heat houses and factories.
At todays prices that is over 15 billion dollars that are leaving our economy and going to people like Chavez and the nice guys in the middle east.
If we converted those houses to natural gas, all that money would be staying in our own economy.

Gunther Dieckmann

It is wonderful to see that the world still has ample sources of hydrocarbons. We are going to need it. Unfortunately, the world’s energy demand since 1965 to present has been growing at a phenomenal rate of 2.6% per year. In other words, if this trend continuous, the world will consume 3 times more energy in 2050 than in 2010. Let us not fool ourselves. The bulk of the energy in 2050 will still come from fossel fuels, and since conventional oil reservoirs will be in serious decline by 2050, the world will have switched to coal and natural gas by this time. The projected life of natural gas resources in the article is wrong since it does not take into account this massive shift to natural gas as a source of energy. This shift is rapidly occurring right now since gas is roughly 3 times cheaper on a energy content basis than conventional oil. Unfortunately, these deep gas shales represent one of the last untapped sources of fossel fuels.
It is crime that this current generation is not taking more responsibility to fund serious long term energy research. This country and collectively this planet will need to identify the most cost effective alternative to fossel fuels in the next few decades before the last of these fossel fuel resource are exhausted (sometime around by 2100). What is difficult to appreciate unless you have worked in alternative energy is that the research and development of new technologies takes decades. For example, developers of Li-ion batteries for automobile applications must demonstate that these batteries can last the life of the car under all conditions. I gave a graduate seminar on Li-ion batteries 25 years ago, and they are just now being considered in automobile applications. Unfortunately, Li-ion batteries are still not even cost competitive against the lead-acid cell, which still starts every automobile. We are running out of time to solve this long term problem. For even after our society has identified a renewable or sustainable source of energy, it will take another 50 years or more to fully displace fossel fuels. This is the bare facts of energy and energy research.
So what is the US doing? Currently the US Department of Energy is mainly focused on biofuels and carbon dioxide sequestration. Both of these efforts will not address the long term shortage of fossel fuels that this planet has become so dependent on. The arguement that every little bit of energy counts is false. To meet the total world energy demand in 2050 with a biomass source of energy would require new farm land that exceeds 1.3 times the land surface area of the US (assuming a 1% conversion factor of solar energy to stored biomass energy). Where is this land coming from? What about water? How are we going to produce meaningful quantities of biofuels without seriously impacting food production?
We need the world governments to be focused on technologies that can be scaled to the dimensions that will be needed in the future. Thus I like large scale solar thermal, concentrated PV (where both electricity and heat can be collected), fusion-fission plants, solar hydrogen (which can be used to increase the stored energy found in biofuels). Private industry cannot afford to conduct the basic energy research because the “payoff” will not occur for decades to come. The low priced natural gas will prevent this from happening.

Phil's Dad

There seems to be a bit of paralogic UK government bashing going on here over the Tyndall report calling for a moratorium on shale gas developments. It is worth remembering that “The Tyndall report was commissioned by The Co-operative, an institutional investor in oil firms.” (i.e. in competition with shale gas) but that “UK ministers have rejected a moratorium, saying that drilling for shale gas does not pose a threat.” Further (as simply stated above by Larry at 8:12 am) “The UK is developing shale gas.”
I know its fun to have a pop at politicians and on the whole we are up for it but there are some of us on the inside working very hard to bring common sense to these decisions and – well – sometimes it would be nice to get a little recognition for that.
Not holding my breath…