AGA: US gas reserves 205 tcf at yearend 2006

US natural gas reserves increased for the eighth consecutive year in 2006 as producers drilled a record 30,000 wells, the American Gas Association reported in its latest annual estimate of domestic supplies.

Nick Snow
Washington Correspondent

WASHINGTON, DC, Mar. 22 -- US natural gas reserves increased for the eighth consecutive year in 2006 as producers drilled a record 30,000 wells, the American Gas Association reported in its latest annual estimate of domestic supplies.

Reserves grew to more than 205 tcf at yearend 2006 from 204 tcf a year earlier, placing them at their highest point since 1978, according to AGA's Preliminary Findings Concerning 2006 Natural Gas Reserves.

The trade association's annual estimate is based on reported figures from a representative sample of 30 reserves holders representing more than half of the total US booked reserves and slightly less than half of all US production, AGA said.

Noting that 2006's total US gas completions were a record last year, Chris McGill, AGA's managing director of policy analysis and the report's author, said most of the wells were drilled onshore in shales, tight sands, and coal seams.

"It takes many of these smaller wells to sustain production. Growing reserves inventories do not necessarily mean that domestic production capacity is dramatically increasing," he said.

AGA's latest analysis predicts that annual US gas production capacity will remain at 18-19 tcf for the foreseeable future without significant policy decision to open access to more potential gas resources.

McGill also said the "shelf life" of current US gas reserves has increased to an estimate 11 years in 2006 from about 9 years in 2001. He attributed this to a marked shift to lower-yield reservoirs such as shales and coal seams from traditional producing wells.

"The good news is that a solid productive capacity baseline is being established. The bad news is that it takes many more wells to sustain productive capacity as more traditional production is depleted," he pointed out.

The report also said that even with mergers of key reserves holders during 2006, no single producer accounts for more than 4% of the 22 tcf/year of gas consumed in the US. This indicates a competitive market for US gas supplies, McGill said.

Contact Nick Snow at nsnow@cox.net.

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