Tight Sands and Shales

Tight sands and shales are low-permeability geological formations which sometimes contain large accumulation of natural gas. This means that the underground rock layers holding the gas are very dense, and thus the gas does not flow easily toward wells drilled to collect it, resulting in low recovery rates. This can be enhanced by horizontal drilling and fracturing of the rocks with explosives, or with hydraulic pressure to provide pathways for the trapped gas to flow more easily to the well-bores to be pumped to the surface. In the United States, the exploitation of these sources now accounts for more than 15% of domestic methane production, with the development of tight gas sands representing most of the production. Despite the fact that gas resources from tight sands and shales are immense, there are many uncertainties about the cost of their production. In 2002, the U.S. Geological Survey estimated the total technically recoverable natural gas from these sources in the United States, to be around 10 trillions cubic meters, or about 15 years of natural gas consumption.

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