News / USA

    New Technology Provides Abundance of Natural Gas

    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

    New EU Asylum Rules Could Boost Rightists

    New regulations will seek to correct EU failures in dealing with migrant crisis, most notably inability to get member states to absorb a total of 160,000 refugees

    More Political Turmoil Likely in Iraq as Iran Waits in the Wings

    Analysts warn that Tehran, even though it may not be engineering the Sadrist protests in Baghdad, is seeking to leverage its influence on its neighbor

    Goodbye Ketchup, Hello Sriracha!

    How immigrants are triggering a great transformation in American cuisine

    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.
    Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Rulingi
    X
    May 03, 2016 5:16 PM
    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Ruling

    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Painting Captures President Lincoln Assassination Aftermath

    A newly restored painting captures the moments following President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. It was recently unveiled at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, where America’s 16th president was shot. It is the only known painting by an eyewitness that captures the horror of that fateful night. VOA’s Julie Taboh tells us more about the painting and what it took to restore it to its original condition.
    Video

    Video Elephant Summit Results in $5M in Pledges, Presidential Support

    Attended and supported by three African presidents, a three-day anti-poaching summit has concluded in Kenya, resulting in $5 million in pledges and a united message to the world that elephants are worth more alive than dead. The summit culminated at the Nairobi National Park with the largest ivory burn in history. VOA’s Jill Craig attended the summit and has this report about the outcomes.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Ethiopia’s Drought Takes Toll on Children

    Ethiopia is dealing with its worst drought in decades, thanks to El Nino weather patterns. An estimated 10 million people urgently need food aid. Six million of them are children, whose development may be compromised without sufficient help, Marthe van der Wolf reports for VOA from the Metahara district.
    Video

    Video Little Havana - a Slice of Cuban Culture in Florida

    Hispanic culture permeates everything in Miami’s Little Havana area: elderly men playing dominoes as they discuss politics, cigar rollers deep at work, or Cuban exiles talking with presidential candidates at a Cuban coffee window. With the recent rapprochement between Cuba and United States, one can only expect stronger ties between South Florida and Cuba.
    Video

    Video California Republicans Weigh Presidential Choices Amid Protests

    Republican presidential candidates have been wooing local party leaders in California, a state that could be decisive in selecting the party's nominee for U.S. president. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports delegates to the California party convention have been evaluating choices, while front-runner Donald Trump drew hundreds of raucous protesters Friday.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Football Team Helps War-Torn City Cope

    With the conflict still raging across much of Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, between the rebel PKK and the Turkish state, many Kurds are trying to escape the turmoil by focusing on the success of their football team Amedspor in Diyarbakir. The club is increasingly becoming a symbol for Kurds, not only in Diyarbakir but beyond. Dorian Jones reports from southeast Turkey.
    Video

    Video ‘The Lights of Africa’ - Through the Eyes of 54 Artists

    An exhibition bringing together the work of 54 African artists, one from each country, is touring the continent after debuting at COP21 in Paris. Called "Lumières d'Afrique," the show centers on access to electricity and, more figuratively, ideas that enlighten. Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, the exhibition's first stop.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora