Gas Industry Spins USGS Findings, Marcellus Shale Gas Reserve Slashed, not Boosted

USGS findings show gas reserves only contain 20% of recent estimates

Yesterday, the U.S. Geological Survey updated its 2002 estimate of natural gas resources contained within the Marcellus Shale.

From the USGS:

84 trillion cubic feet of undiscovered, technically recoverable natural gas and 3.4 billion barrels of undiscovered, technically recoverable natural gas liquids according to a new assessment by the U. S. Geological Survey (USGS).

These gas estimates are significantly more than the last USGS assessment of the Marcellus Shale in the Appalachian Basin in 2002, which estimated a mean of about 2 trillion cubic feet of gas (TCF) and 0.01 billion barrels of natural gas liquids.

News of the findings spread rapidly throughout the media with headlines declaring much more natural gas is locked in the Marcellus Shale than previously thought, but those headlines were simply ‘spun’ to the industry’s advantage, and here is why: the data in those articles compares yesterday’s findings to a previous study by the USGS, in 2002, rather than more recent studies which estimated the gas reserves to be much higher.

This is simply not an accurate way to examine the information, as more recent studies actually indicate the USGS’s findings show the amount of gas reserves to be significantly lower than recently predicted.

A more recent and accepted study by the Energy Information Administration (a branch of the Department of Energy), estimated gas reserves to be at 410 trillion cubic feet.

The new study by the USGS puts those estimates at 84 trillion cubic feet; approximately 20% of the most recently accepted estimates.

Simply put, when compared to more recent figures, the USGS study shows a huge decline in estimated reserves, rather than an increase when compared to a study nearly a decade old.