Kiran Stacey US energy dept: Shale adds 40% to global gas supplies

How much shale gas is there outside the US? It sounds like an impossibly large question, but it is one the US Energy Information Administration has attempted to answer in a new report, carried out by Advanced Resources International.

Their findings are impressive. There is a huge amount of recoverable shale gas out there, says the report – so much that it would add 40 per cent to total global gas supplies. Unsurprisingly the report is already being seized on by gas lobbyists as evidence that shale will change the energy world.

The central finding is this (emboldening ours):

The international shale gas resource base is vast. The initial estimate of technically recoverable shale gas resources in the 32 countries examined is 5,760 trillion cubic feet.

Adding the US estimate of the shale gas technically recoverable resources of 862 trillion cubic feet results in a total shale resource base estimate of 6,622 trillion cubic feet for the US and the other 32 countries assessed. To put this shale gas resource estimate in some perspective, world proven reserves of natural gas as of January 1, 2010 are about 6,609 trillion cubic feet, and world technically recoverable gas resources are roughly 16,000 trillion cubic feet, largely excluding shale gas.

Thus, adding the identified shale gas resources to other gas resources increases total world technically recoverable gas resources by over 40 per cent to 22,600 trillion cubic feet.

So where are these reserves? The US and China mainly. Given that shale has largely been a US story thus far, it is a surprise to see that China holds technically recoverable assets of around 50 per cent more than in the States. This could be potentially huge for the country’s efforts to power up its rapidly developing economy.

Here is the full list of coutnries where shale could be extracted:

Technically recoverable shale gas resources (trillion cubic feet)
France 180
Germany 8
Netherlands 17
Norway 83
UK 20
Denmark 23
Sweden 41
Poland 187
Turkey 15
Ukraine 42
Lithuania 4
Romania, Hunary, Bulgaria 19
North America
US 862
Canada 388
Mexico 681
China 1,275
India 63
Pakistan 51
Australia 396
South Africa 485
Libya 290
Tunisia 18
Algeria 231
Morocco 11
Western Sahara 7
Mauritania 0
South America
Venezuela 11
Colombia 19
Argentina 774
Brazil 226
Chile 64
Uruguay 21
Paraguay 62
Bolivia 48
Total 6,622

And here’s the map that shows these numbers:

Global shale resources

Image by EIA

Of course, these estimates may change, and the amount of oil or gas in the ground is never certain until it is found. But at 365 pages, with individual reports on 14 different regions, including geological reports and maps, the EIA is as thorough as it could be.

It seems the gas is probably there: the question now is, do governments across the world want to take the possible environmental risks needed to extract it?