Full Title: Golden Rules for a Golden Age of Gas: World Energy Outlook Special Report on Unconventional Gas
Author(s): International Energy Agency
Publisher(s): International Energy Agency
Publication Date: May 1, 2012
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Natural gas is poised to enter a golden age, but will do so only if a significant proportion of the world’s vast resources of unconventional gas – shale gas, tight gas and coalbed methane – can be developed profitably and in an environmentally acceptable manner. Advances in upstream technology have led to a surge in the production of unconventional gas in North America in recent years, holding out the prospect of further increases in production there and the emergence of a large-scale unconventional gas industry in other parts of the world, where sizeable resources are known to exist. The boost that this would give to gas supply would bring a number of benefits in the form of greater energy diversity and more secure supply in those countries that rely on imports to meet their gas needs, as well as global benefits in the form of reduced energy costs.
Yet a bright future for unconventional gas is far from assured: numerous hurdles need to be overcome, not least the social and environmental concerns associated with its extraction. Producing unconventional gas is an intensive industrial process, generally imposing a larger environmental footprint than conventional gas development. More wells are often needed and techniques such as hydraulic fracturing are usually required to boost the flow of gas from the well. The scale of development can have major implications for local communities, land use and water resources. Serious hazards, including the potential for air pollution and for contamination of surface and groundwater, must be successfully addressed. Greenhouse-gas emissions must be minimised both at the point of production and throughout the entire natural gas supply chain. Improperly addressed, these concerns threaten to curb, if not halt, the development of unconventional resources.