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Energy and the West: Gas Resources and Production Issues

Cook, Lance
Wyoming State Geological Survey, Laramie, WY

As natural gas demand grows in the US marketplace, part of the public discussion relating to our growing natural gas industry has centered around gas resource access questions (Are there impediments to leasing and exploring our resources?), gas production questions (Are we able to drill and produce the gas that we have?), and ultimately, gas supply questions (Do we have enough resource? Are we running out of gas?). Wyoming, as the only state in the USA to have increased gas production every year for the past 18 years, presents a useful microcosm to evaluate these questions on a detailed basis for the Rocky Mountain region, where much of the USA’s undeveloped gas resource base is thought to lie.

Wyoming has a number of as-yet undeveloped gas resources that are sufficiently large to have an impact on the national gas supply picture:

  • Jonah Field 6-12 TCF (recoverable)
  • Pinedale Anticline 10-20 TCF (recoverable) 
  • Big-Piney LaBarge 15-25 TCF (recoverable) 
  • Madden Field 3-5 TCF (recoverable) 
  • Powder River CBM 24-27 TCF (recoverable) TOTAL 59-89 TCF (recoverable)

Additionally, Wyoming has large undeveloped/under-explored resources in tight gas plays, coalbed methane and deep structural trends. In the future, technological advancements will enhance recoveries from already known conventional fields as well as unconventional resources.

However, Wyoming’s gas resources are not all easily developed. There are a number of impediments that have reduced the rate of development drilling, reduced necessary access for exploration, precluded development entirely, and may reduce the ultimate recovery of discovered fields. Wyoming, with all of its gas resources and long history of production growth, is forecasting no growth in natural gas production for 2004 due to a number of impediments. These impediments are due to federal, state and market-driven constraints.

As gas supplies grow tighter in the future, and before North Slope gas or LNG imports can bolster domestic supplies, it will be necessary for all levels of government to recognize that the supply of natural gas is essential to the economic well-being of all citizens, private and corporate.