What is the role of shale as a source of oil and gas resources in the United States?

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Graph of dry shale gas production in the United States from 2003-2017.
Information on this page was collected from the source acknowledged below:

Energy Information Administration's "Energy Explained" series:

"Shale is a fine-grained sedimentary rock that forms from the compaction of silt and clay-size mineral particles and is easily broken into thin, parallel layers. Black shale contains organic material that can generate oil and natural gas and trap the generated oil and natural gas within its pores.

Shale natural gas resources are found in shale formations that contain significant accumulations of natural gas and/or oil. The Barnett Shale in Texas has been producing natural gas for more than a decade. Information gained from developing the Barnett Shale provided the initial technology template for developing other shale plays in the United States. Another important shale natural gas play is the Marcellus Shale in the eastern United States. While the Barnett and Marcellus formations are well-known shale natural gas plays in the United States, more than 30 U.S. states have shale formations."

"Large-scale natural gas production from shale began around 2000, when shale gas production became a commercial reality in the Barnett Shale located in north-central Texas. The production of Barnett Shale natural gas was pioneered by the Mitchell Energy and Development Corporation. During the 1980s and 1990s, Mitchell Energy experimented with alternative methods of hydraulically fracturing ["fracking"] the Barnett Shale. By 2000, the company had developed a hydraulic fracturing technique that produced commercial volumes of shale gas. As the commercial success of the Barnett Shale became apparent, other companies started drilling wells in this formation so that by 2005, the Barnett Shale was producing almost half a trillion cubic feet (Tcf) of natural gas per year. As natural gas producers gained confidence in their abilities to profitably produce natural gas in the Barnett Shale, with confirmation provided by well results in the Fayetteville Shale in northern Arkansas, producers started developing other shale formations, including the Haynesville in eastern Texas and north Louisiana, the Woodford in Oklahoma, the Eagle Ford in southern Texas, and the Marcellus and Utica shales in northern Appalachia."

"The United States has access to significant shale natural gas resources. In the U.S. Crude Oil and Natural Gas Proved Reserves (December 2016), the U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates that the United States has about 200 trillion cubic feet of proved shale gas resources. In the World Shale Resource Assessments report (September 2015), the U.S. is estimated to have nearly 623 trillion cubic feet of additional unproved technically recoverable shale gas resources."

U.S. natural gas consumption in 2016 was 27.5 trillion cubic feet. Read the entire "Energy Explained" chapter on EIA's website.

Learn More:

  • World Shale Resource Assessments (Report), Energy Information Administration
    Assessments of shale oil and shale gas resources for many individual countries around the world.
  • Shale Gas 101 (Website), U.S. Department of Energy
    Website providing introductory resources and answers to frequently asked questions about shale gas.