EIA Report Shows Vast Global Shale Nat' Gas Reserves

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"The report estimates 5,760 trillion cubic feet of recoverable gas in the shale-rock formations of 32 different countries."

The North American shale-gas bonanza could be the tip of a gigantic natural-gas iceberg, according to a report commissioned by the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

The report, which contains an overview of natural-gas-bearing shale-rock formations in 32 countries, estimates that these contain about 5,760 trillion cubic feet of technically recoverable gas. That is nearly seven times the amount present in the U.S, according to the report, which was released late Tuesday.

The biggest overseas natural-gas shale reserves lie in China, with 1,275 Tcf. Argentina, Mexico, South Africa and Canada are also endowed with massive reserves, the report, written by consultancy Advanced Resources International Inc., said. Other countries with large amounts of gas-rich shale include Libya, Algeria, France and Poland. Each of these countries has hundreds of trillions of cubic feet of shale natural gas that can be exploited using existing technology.

Independent U.S. oil companies learned to unlock the gas trapped in tight shale rock formations in the 1980s and 1990s, and the technique spread during the last decade, triggering an unexpected supply boost in North American natural gas. The EIA report's findings underscore how the propagation of those techniquesóbased on drilling horizontally in the rock formation, and cracking it with water to release the gasócould unleash a similar natural-gas supply boom around the globe.

Russia, Central Asia, the Middle East, Southeast Asia and Central Africa weren't part of the study. The report also didn't take into account production costs, or above-the-ground factors such as access to resources in the countries that were studied.

Last month, Algerian oil minister Youcef Yousfi said at a conference in Houston that the North African country would invite U.S. oil companies to help unlock its shale potential.

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