US Slashes Estimate of Recoverable Gas in Marcellus Shale by 80%

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In a rush to convince the public that natural gas is a key energy solution, even a fuel of the future (or at least a long-term stopgap between dirtier fossil fuels and full-fledged clean energy) the industry cut more than a few corners, we're now finding out. The industry claimed that it contaminated no water supplies with its fracking practices, but this was later proven untrue. They claimed existing regulations on the industry were sound, and its drilling operations were safe -- and then citizens in nearby towns found themselves pouring flammable water out of the tap.

Now, after being roundly criticized for relying too much on industry-friendly consulting services to obtain its information, the U.S. Geological Survey has slashed its estimate for how much natural gas is recoverable in the nation's largest untapped store by 80%. This is sure to send a ripple through the industry, as the purported abundance of the fuel was a key part of its appeal. Here's the New York Times:

Federal geologists published new estimates this week for the amount of natural gas that exists in a giant rock formation known as the Marcellus Shale, which stretches from New York to Virginia. The shale formation has about 84 trillion cubic feet of undiscovered, technically recoverable natural gas, according to the report from the United States Geological Survey. This is drastically lower than the 410 trillion cubic feet that was published earlier this year by the federal Energy Information Administration.

As a result, the Energy Information Administration, which is responsible for quantifying oil and gas supplies, has said it will slash its official estimate for the Marcellus Shale by nearly 80 percent, a move that is likely to generate new questions about how the agency calculates its estimates and why it was so far off in its projections.

There were earlier indications that the initial estimates were way off -- Mat noted over a week ago that an independent review found that nat gas industry reserves were probably exaggerated by at least 100%. It turns out they were exaggerated by much more than that.

This is the latest in a series of blows to the natural gas industry -- it now seems to be the case that it was over-inflating estimates in order to attract investment, and over-stating the reliability of its safety procedures to sell the public on its 'cleaner' image. It should also be noted that the author of this Times piece, Ian Urbina, should be lauded for his diligent work in clearing the air on the nat gas industry's endeavors. Propublica and the Oil Drum have also done good work here, the fruits of which are being felt in the USGS's 'reassessing' its estimates.

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Tags: United States