U.S. energy department lowers estimate on Marcellus Shale yield

The U.S. Department of Energy says there’s a lot less recoverable natural gas within the Marcellus Shale formation than it had previously projected.

New technology to extract gas from Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale has contributed to a drilling boom, though estimates of how long the boom will last differ widely, based on differing projections about how much recoverable natural gas lies thousands of feet below Pennsylvania’s forests and farms.

Last summer, the U.S. Geological Survey released a projection that was 80 percent lower than the Department of Energy’s estimate at that time. After taking a look at new data, the Department of Energy now has reduced its estimate by two thirds.  So that’s still more that U.S.G.S. estimate, but a lot closer to it.

Travis Windle is with the Marcellus Shale Coalition, an industry group based in Canonsburg, Pa.

“There’s a lot of variables, there’s a lot of unknowns,” Windle said. “There’s a lot of information we’re trying to gather about the host of geological factors that determine how much natural gas is viable and can be produced in a way that’s economical.”

Such projections matter a lot to major energy customers trying to decide which energy sources to count on long-term.

Although the Department of Energy now says gas drillers can expect to get less gas out of the Marcellus Shale, it still expects natural gas production from the shale will continue to grow, as imports from Canada decrease. By 2016, its report predicts, the U.S. will be a net exporter of liquefied natural gas

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