News / USA

New Technology Provides Abundance of Natural Gas

Greg Flakus

As the price of oil continues its upward trend, there are concerns about future energy supplies and the impact high costs will have on a struggling economy.  But many experts in the energy field believe an answer is at hand in the form of natural gas, supplies of which are growing thanks mostly to new drilling techniques in shale rock.  Many people in the energy sector see natural gas as the fuel of the future.

In the past few years, there has been a dramatic increase in estimates of natural gas reserves in the United States, thanks in large part to the use of hydraulic fracturing in shale deposits.  Fracturing involves the use of high-pressure water, chemicals and sand to make fissures in rock where gas is trapped deep below the earth's surface.

University of Houston chemical engineer and energy expert Michael Economides says the sudden increase in gas reserves could change the world's energy picture.

"I think we are poised right now for natural gas to make a major move, because it has all the right elements to become the premier fuel of the world economy in the not-too-distant future," noted Economides.

U.S. development of its natural gas resources could reduce dependence on foreign sources of energy and some political analysts believe liquefied natural gas could be exported across the Atlantic to undermine Russia's periodic threats to cutoff European customers.  Michael Economides agrees.

"Twenty-five European countries depend for more than 75 percent of their oil and gas on Russia," Economides added.  "Now, if for instance, the United States, with all this gas, can actually export gas to Western Europe, it turns the whole energy independence conundrum on its head, because we clearly have enough gas to change the equation in Europe."

Most natural gas is used for heating homes, cooking food and running power plant generators, while oil is the primary fuel used for transportation.  But there are proposals to convert truck fleets to natural-gas burning engines and abandon pollution-prone coal plants for gas-powered generators that would support an increased use of electric automobiles.

Natural gas produces close to 50 percent less carbon dioxide than coal and less air pollution in general than oil, something Michael Economides says should draw support from environmentalists.

"Natural gas, which has a lot of advantages, should be the darling of environmentalists as well as business people," he noted.

But, while many environmental groups do give natural gas its place in the energy mix, some have expressed concerns over possible contamination of water resources through fracturing.  The Environmental protection agency is making a major study of the issue.

Former Shell Oil president John Hofmeister, who heads the group Citizens for Affordable Energy, says the oil and gas industry should take the matter seriously.

"I think if we are enforcing standards, regulated standards, that all companies have to apply and we have monitoring of these standards, then I think we can come to a sustainable formula for drilling an adequate supply of future gas reserves, which will keep us well supplied with energy for decades and decades to come," said Hofmeister.

One expert who has looked at the issue closely for many years is David Burnett, a scientist at the Global Petroleum Research Institute at Texas A&M University.  He says proper disposal of water used in the process is the main concern.

"The drilling and fracturing of gas shales is completely benign, the surface footprint of drilling operations is pretty noticeable and the disposal of the water as it comes back is of concern," noted Burnett.  "Most of us now, I think, do not allow people to discharge that water that comes back into any sort of surface waterway or any public water supplies or anything like that."

If the environmental concerns can be fully addressed, some experts say, natural gas could become a much cheaper and a much more reliable alternative to the various renewable energies like wind and solar, which represent less than two percent of the current energy mix and are dependent on large government subsidies.

Based on International Energy Administration estimates, the University of Houston's Michael Economides says the world has nearly 300 years worth of natural gas at current levels of usage.  

But he says there may be even more in the form of frozen gas on the ocean floor, called natural gas hydrates.  If the gas hydrates can be extracted in a commercially viable way, Economides believes the world could have as much as a thousand years worth of the fuel.

You May Like

Captured IS Militants Explain Why They Fought

Fighters from Turkey, Syria tell VOA Kurdish Service what drew them to extremism, jihad More

Security Experts Split on Kenyan Barrier Wall

Experts divided on whether initiative aiming to keep out al-Shabab militants is long-awaited solution or misguided effort More

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Officials say they hope to turn Manila into the next Macau, which has long been Asia’s gambling hub More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More