How do we actually know how much natural gas there really is? You don’t really know until you look, but technology is enabling us to better estimate the potential supply.
The federal government’s Energy Information Administration estimates the resources in the United States, and its data is probably most well known because it is used on a regular basis.
Universities, think tanks and other organizations such as the Potential Gas Committee
develop their own assessments, which add to the understanding of the resource base.
These estimates are based on:
- Proved reserves, which make up a small but important part of the estimates. The official definition is: Proved reserves are the quantity of energy sources estimated with reasonable certainty from the analysis of geologic and engineering data to be recoverable from well established known reservoirs with the existing equipment and under the existing operating conditions.
- Technically recoverable resources means that the technology is available to develop these resources, including both discovered and undiscovered resources. These estimates are based on:
- Assessments by the U.S. Geological Survey of the resources on land and assessment by the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement of the resources below the ocean floors.
- Reviews of the new technologies that allow more of the resources to be brought to the surface. A good example of this is the recent development of sale gas resources, which at one time were thought to be inaccessible.
- This data is then used to develop an estimate of the total natural gas resource base, or the entire volume of natural gas contained in the earth, including the amount that may or may not be recoverable.
For a more complete discussion of how natural gas estimates are developed, see the Natural Gas Supply Association’s website