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Sustainable Energy

Where Is the Global Shale Gas Revolution?

Despite massive resources all over the world, only three countries have managed to produce shale gas at commercial scale.

Natural gas that is cheap enough to substitute for coal in power plants could help countries reach emissions targets.

The United States is not alone in having massive shale gas resources: shale formations rich in gas can be found all over the world. But so far no other country has come close to replicating the U.S. boom that has led to relatively cheap natural gas and helped curb yearly carbon dioxide emissions.

According to recent numbers from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, only two other countries—Canada and China—are now producing commercial volumes of gas from shale formations, a process made feasible relatively recently thanks to the development of hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling technology (see “Natural Gas Changes the Energy Map”).

Those countries lag far behind the United States in production, however. Though China, the world’s largest annual emitter of carbon dioxide, has nearly as much technically recoverable shale gas as the U.S. according to recent EIA estimates, challenging geology has been a major obstacle, and the country has had to scale back its near-term goals dramatically (see “China’s Shale Gas Bust”).

According to the EIA, recent developments indicate that China is on schedule to produce some 17 million cubic meters per day by the end of this year. By comparison, current U.S. production is roughly 1.3 billion cubic meters per day. Canada, the second-largest shale gas producer, produced roughly 113 million cubic meters per day last year.

Mexico has begun to produce a very small amount of the gas, and Poland, Algeria, Australia, Colombia, and Russia are all exploring the potential for developing oil and gas resources from their own shale formations. But according to the EIA, the “logistics and infrastructure” necessary to support production at the level seen in the United States does not yet exist in other countries besides Canada and China.

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