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New report demystifies natural gas terminology

A new Congressional Research Service report cuts through the sometimes confusing language that describes the nation's endowment of oil and natural gas resources.

For example, the report explains the distinction between the nation's estimated 272.5 trillion cubic feet of proved natural gas reserves – an 11-year supply at current consumption rates – and the estimated 1,500 trillion cubic feet of undiscovered technically recoverable natural gas resource – a 60-year supply.

The report explains that many of the nation's high-quality, easy-to-produce oil and gas deposits have already been tapped, leaving more-challenging, less-profitable deposits to dominate future production. It also defines the differences between such terms as dry vs. wet gas, reserves vs. resources, proved vs. unproved reserves, conventional vs. unconventional resources and technically recoverable vs. economically recoverable resources.

"Current discussions of U.S. and global energy supply refer to oil, natural gas, and coal using several terms that may be unfamiliar to some," the report says. "The terms used to describe different types of fossil fuels have technically precise definitions, and misunderstanding or misuse of these terms may lead to errors and confusion in estimating energy available or making comparisons among fuels, regions, or nations."

The 25-page report from the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service is titled "U.S. Fossil Fuel Resources: Terminology, Reporting and Summary." 

- By Bill White, Researcher/Writer for the OFC. bwhite@arcticgas.gov

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