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

Turkey: No Ransom Paid for Release of Hostages Held by IS Militants

President Erdogan hails release of hostages as diplomatic success but declines to be drawn on whether their release freed Ankara's hand to take more active stance against insurgents More

Audio Sierra Leone Ends Ebola Lockdown

Health ministry says it has reached 75 percent of its target of visiting 1.5 million homes to locate infected, educate population about virus More

US Pivot to Asia Demands Delicate Balancing Act

As tumult in Middle East distracts Obama administration, efforts to shift American focus eastward appear threatened 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.
Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Towni
X
Deborah Block
September 21, 2014 2:12 PM
A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Town

A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Difficult Tactical Battle Ahead Against IS Militants in Syria

The U.S. president has ordered the military to intensify its fight against the Islamic State, including in Syria. But how does the military conduct air strikes in a country that is not a U.S. ally? VOA correspondent Carla Babb reports from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Alibaba Shares Soar in First Day of Trading

China's biggest online retailer hit the market Friday -- with its share price soaring on the New York Stock Exchange. The shares were priced at $68, but trading stalled at the opening, as sellers held onto their shares, waiting for buyers to bid up the price. More on the world's biggest initial public offering from VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York.
Video

Video Obama Goes to UN With Islamic State, Ebola on Agenda

President Obama goes to the United Nations General Assembly to rally nations to support a coalition against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. He also will look for nations to back his plan to fight the Ebola virus in West Africa. As VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports, Obama’s efforts reflect new moves by the U.S. administration to take a leading role in addressing world crises.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid