Shale Gas


The United States is leading the way in the discovery and production of natural gas from shale rock formations. In recent years, technological advances in horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing have allowed producers to tap these formations economically. The additional production has both drastically lowered the price of natural gas and substantially raised estimated domestic supplies. Shale gas is so abundant that the Potential Gas Committee, in its 2011 biennial report, concludes shale gas accounts for nearly half of the total potential natural gas in the US.

Geologists have known for a long time that natural gas could be found in shale rock formations. Early experimentation with its development dates back to the 19th century, but it wasn’t until the 1950s that a concerted effort was made to develop the necessary technology. Today, shale gas is effectively and economically being produced across the country. Here is a list of today’s most significant shale plays.

Source: Energy Information Administration based on data from various published studies.
Updated: May 9, 2011
  • The Barnett Shale in Texas covers more than 15 counties and is the largest natural gas play in the state of Texas. The technologies developed and used in the Barnett Shale are now being used in other shale plays across the country.
  • The Haynesville Shale is near Shreveport, Louisiana. It extends from northwestern Louisiana to southwestern Arkansas and eastern Texas.
  • The Fayetteville Shale is near Fayetteville, Arkansas.
  • The Marcellus Shale is the largest geological shale rock formation, reaching from West Virginia to Upstate New York. According to the most recent EIA estimates, the Marcellus Shale contains up to 141 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.
Quick facts about shale gas:

  • The production of shale gas provides American jobs and secures an inexpensive energy resource to power vehicles, homes, and businesses.
  • In the past 60 years, more than 1 million wells in the United States have been safely produced with hydraulic fracturing.
  • The average depth of a deep shale gas well is more than 7,500 feet, or 1.5 miles below the earth’s surface, which is far below fresh water supplies.
  • Water use varies based on the particular rock formation being drilled, but a typical deep shale gas well can use more than 3.5 million gallons of water. This is the amount of water consumed by
    • A 1,000 megawatt coal-fired power plant in 8.5 hours;
    • A 1,000 megawatt nuclear power plant in 4.5 hours; or
    • Six acres of corn in a season.
  • Numerous federal and state laws and regulations govern this process, from initial permitting to the safe disposal of waste water.
  • Public access to accurate, objective information on the production of shale gas is improving.
NGVAmerica believes shale gas will continue to be an important domestic energy resource that will power our homes, our vehicles, and our economy well into the future. NGVAmerica also believes the production of shale gas should be done responsibly. The World Energy Outlook’s Golden Rules for the Golden Age of Gas special report speaks to both the tremendous potential of this resource and the public’s concern regarding its production. The report concludes shale gas can be developed safely and responsibly for the mutual benefit of all.

Further Shale Gas Resources:
DOE’s Modern Shale Gas Development in the United States: A Primer
A comprehensive primer explaining the production of shale gas in the US today.

The American Petroleum Institute
A list of current reports on the issues surrounding shale gas production from the American Petroleum Institute (API).

A joint project of the Ground Water Protection Council and the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission. FracFocus is a user-friendly, searchable registry for regulatory information for shale gas production. Educational materials are also available.

EIA Shale Gas and Global Market Outlook

World Energy Outlook’s Golden Rules for a Golden Age of Gas