Natural gas is an efficient energy source and the cleanest-burning fossil fuel. Natural gas extracted from dense shale rock formations has become the fastest-growing source of gas in the United States and could become a significant new global energy source. Although the energy industry has long known about huge gas resources trapped in shale rock formations in the United States, it is over the past decade that energy companies have combined two established technologies—hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling—to successfully unlock this resource.
The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimates the United States possesses more than 2,500 trillion cubic feet of technically recoverable natural gas resources, of which 33 percent is held in shale rock formations. Natural gas from shale has grown to 25 percent of U.S. gas production in just a decade and will be 50 percent by 2035, according to the EIA. Developing this resource can help enhance energy security and strengthen economies.
What Are the Benefits?
Natural gas from shale rock is providing the United States with reliable, affordable, cleaner and responsibly produced energy. Developing these natural gas resources can help enhance the country's energy security, strengthen local and state economies, and fuel job growth. In 2010, the development of the Marcellus Shale, in Pennsylvania, alone generated $11.2 billion in the regional equivalent of gross domestic product, contributed $1.1 billion in state and local tax revenues, and supported nearly 140,000 jobs. The predicted growth of the resource likely means we also can expect to see correlating economic and energy security benefits over the coming years.
An efficient energy source, natural gas is the cleanest-burning conventional fuel, producing lower levels of greenhouse gas emissions than heavier hydrocarbon fuels such as coal and oil. Natural gas resources developed from shale rock have resulted in lower-priced natural gas for U.S. consumers, making it less expensive for Americans to heat their homes and generate electricity from natural gas.
Updated: May 2012