The U.S. government agency The Energy Information Administration issues data on U.S. natural gas production, including shale gas, on a monthly basis. The latest data release was made on 7 January 2013 and covered October 2012 production in billion cubic feet (bcf). Key points:
- October 12 natural gas production: 2,058 bcf, +1.9% year-on-year
- Average monthly production for 12 months to October 12: 1,999 bcf, +6.2% year-on-year
Since the beginning of 2012, the rate of production increase has slowed substantially (click chart above for larger image).
Much media attention has centred on a so-called shale-gas revolution in the United States. Three claims are made with respect to the prospective expansion in shale gas production:
- The expansion will be sufficient to substantially increase total natural gas production in the U.S. This, in turn, will provide access to a cheap source of energy over the coming decades, so boosting the U.S. economy.
- The U.S. will move toward an era of energy self-sufficiency. Moreover, the scale of shale gas production will be sufficient to allow the U.S. to commence natural gas exports, thus transforming non-U.S. energy markets.
- Increased natural gas production in the U.S. will mitigate carbon emissions and so reduce the risk of dangerous climate change.
For the first two claims to be substantiated, significant year-on-year rises in U.S. natural gas production will be required over years. Through tracking monthly production of natural gas, a non-specialist can confirm or refute whether large rises in natural gas production are being achieved and, therefore, whether the claims associated with a shale-gas revolution are credible. In short, the monthly numbers will belie or support the hype.