Modern Shale Gas Development in the United States: A Primer

Addressing Water Issues Key to Increasing U.S. Shale Gas Production

Washington, D.C. - The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announces the release of "Modern Shale Gas Development in the United States: A Primer (PDF)." The Primer provides regulators, policy makers, and the public with an objective source of information on the technology advances and challenges that accompany deep shale gas development.

Natural gas production from hydrocarbon rich deep shale formations, known as "shale gas," is one of the most quickly expanding trends in onshore domestic oil and gas exploration. The lower 48 states have a wide distribution of these shales containing vast resources of natural gas. Led by rapid development in the Barnett Shale in Texas, current shale gas activity is also found in areas of Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Illinois, and the Appalachian Basin. Some of these areas have seen little or no oil and gas activity in the past and new shale gas development can bring change to the environmental and socio-economic landscape. With these changes have come questions about the nature of shale gas development, the potential environmental impacts, and the ability of the current regulatory structure to deal with this development.

DOE recognized the need for a report that presents credible, factual information to address these questions. The Primer describes the importance of shale gas in meeting the future energy needs of the United States. It provides an overview of modern shale gas development, as well as a summary of federal, state, and local regulations applicable to the natural gas production industry, and describes environmental considerations related to shale gas development.

Clean-burning natural gas will continue to play a vital role in meeting U.S. energy needs. And, U.S. natural gas supply is expected to come increasingly from domestic gas-filled shales. Key to the emergence of shale gas production has been the refinement of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing technologies. These technologies enable industry to produce more natural gas from the shale formations economically and with less disturbance of surface environments.

Protecting and conserving water resources is an important aspect of producing shale gas, and this DOE-funded effort was championed by the Ground Water Protection Council, the national association of state ground water and underground injection agencies whose mission is to promote the protection and conservation of ground water for all beneficial uses. The Primer provides fact-based technical information for public education and informed regulation and policy decisions on the environmentally responsible development of the Nation’s shale gas resources.