The Texas Barnett Shale formation, where modern hydraulic fracturing began, has twice as much natural gas as expected, according to a study by the United States Geological Survey (USGS) released Thursday.
The Barnett Shale contains an estimated 53 trillion cubic feet of shale natural gas, while a previous 2003 assessment estimated 26.2 trillion cubic feet. The near-doubling of available reserves in potential resources is largely due to the innovative development of horizontal drilling and fracking. Fracking has helped the Barnett Shale produce more than 15 trillion cubic feet of natural gas and 59 million barrels of oil since the 2003 assessment.
Fracking is the process of using a high-pressure water mixture to release gas or oil from rock. Fracking and horizontal drilling has allowed companies to unlock oil and natural gas reserves which were previously economically unfeasible. This triggered an oil and natural gas boom which made the US the world’s largest producer of both oil and natural gas.
The Barnett Shale also includes an estimated 172 million barrels of shale oil and 176 million barrels of natural gas liquids, according to the updated assessment. To put those reserves in some context, Saudi Arabia’s total proven oil reserves are estimated to be 268 billion barrels, according to the Central Intelligence Agency.
“It’s a testament to American ingenuity that we are still finding massive new supplies of natural gas, especially here in the place where the fracking boom began. This new assessment is certainly good news for our energy security,” a spokesperson for North Texans for Natural Gas told The Texas Tribune.
The Barnett Shale is not the only formation reassessed by the USGS to have double the reserves expected. In 2013, an updated assessment of the Bakken Formation in North Dakota came to a similar conclusion, as did a 2011 assessment of the Marcellus Shale.
The reassessment was part of USGS attempts to comply with President Obama’s “All-Of-The-Above” energy strategy.
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