Unconventional gas in the U.S.

Tad W. Patzek*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


While production of the easy-to-recover petroleum and natural gas declines worldwide, several adjustments will be made: (1) The rich countries will continue to limit their total energy consumption; (2) the United States in particular will have to cut its primary energy consumption by a factor of two to the level of the most affluent West European countries; (3) the poor countries will be helped to produce and deploy passive solar devices for cooking and heating, and will gain access to the clean burning, locally produced biofuels for local transportation and other local uses; (4) all other countries will have to limit their reliance on coal for most of modernization; (5) several alternative energy systems that rely on the sun will be developed and deployed; and (6) electricity generation by nuclear fission will grow as old coal-fired power stations are decommissioned. The world will have three other environmentally unfriendly alternatives: (1) Produce massive amounts of biofuels; (2) recover, process and burn more ultra heavy oil or tar; and (3) burn more coal. For the next several decades the world will have only one environmentally acceptable option to fuel a majority of the required changes: clean natural gas. Natural gas will come from conventional deposits and, increasingly, from unconventional tight sands, shales, and coal seams. The United States of America is endowed with the huge unconventional gas - and oil - resources. In 2009, the technically recoverable unconventional gas is energy-equivalent to producible oil in 5-10 Prudhoe Bays or 1-2 Ghawars. The Prudhoe Bay in Alaska is the largest oil field in North America. The Ghawar giant in Saudi Arabia is the largest oil field on the Earth. Major unconventional gas resources in Texas and the U.S. are discussed. Comments are made on the major technical, environmental and political difficulties of producing these resources.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)181-200
Number of pages20
JournalArchives of Mining Sciences
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Fossil fuels
  • Greenhouse gas emissions
  • Natural gas
  • Unconventional

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geotechnical Engineering and Engineering Geology
  • Geochemistry and Petrology


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