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AAPG Bulletin


AAPG Bulletin, V. 86, No. 10 (October 2002),Copyright ©2002. The American Association of Petroleum Geologists. All rights reserved.

Recoverable natural gas resource of the United States: Summary of recent estimates

John B. Curtis,1 Scott L. Montgomery2

1Petroleum Exploration and Production Center/Potential Gas Agency, Department of Geology and Geological Engineering, Colorado School of Mines, Golden, Colorado, 80401; email: [email protected]
2Petroleum Consultant, 1511 18th Avenue East, Seattle, Washington, 98112; email: [email protected]


John B. Curtis is associate professor and director, Petroleum Exploration and Production Center/Potential Gas Agency at the Colorado School of Mines. He is an associate editor for the AAPG Bulletin and The Mountain Geologist. As director of the Potential Gas Agency, he directs a team of 145 geologists, geophysicists, and petroleum engineers in their biennial assessment of remaining United States natural gas resources.

Scott L. Montgomery is a petroleum consultant and author residing in Seattle, Washington. He holds a B.A. degree in English from Knox College (1973) and an M.S. degree in geological sciences from Cornell University (1978). He is the lead author for the E&P Notes series in the AAPG Bulletin (since 1996) and has published widely on many topics in the petroleum industry.


Acknowledgment is extended to Steven Schwochow for graphics design and production. This article is based on information reviewed and improved by the following members of the Potential Gas Committee: John D. Haun, David F. Morehouse, J. Scott Jenkins, and Michael K. Decker. The ongoing efforts of the Committee, which includes 145 volunteers from industry and government, are gratefully acknowledged. Work of the Committee includes biennial assessment of the remaining natural gas resource base.


A summary is presented between five recent estimates of the potential natural gas resource in the United States, including Alaska. Generated between 1995 and 2001 by both private and federal organizations, these estimates concern gas that is potentially recoverable under existing and foreseeable technological conditions. Proved reserves and cumulative production are not included. Thus, the assessments show estimated values for natural gas that remains to be found and developed. These assessments indicate an average total resource of 1549 tcf, or a 67 yr supply at current rates of consumption, approximately nine times the volume of proved reserves (177 tcf) in 2001. A considerable majority of each individual estimate (>70%) is interpreted by the respective organization to exist in conventional reservoirs. A significant percentage (average 17.8%) of each total resource is predicted to lie in tight gas sands, mainly within the coterminous United States. Both the scale and nature of the potential gas resource strongly suggest that a combination of economic incentives, long-term exploration, and improvements to recovery technology will be capable of greatly augmenting recoverable domestic reserves.

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