Natural gas from shales has the potential to significantly increase America’s security of energy supply, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and lower prices for consumers. Although shale gas has been produced in the United State for many decades, it was not considered to be a significant resource until the last decade when new horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing technology facilitated economic production.
Shale gas currently contributes about 16 percent of U.S. natural gas production, an amount that is expected to grow significantly as this huge resource is developed.
Natural gas can replace high-emissions fuels like oil and coal and facilitate variable renewable energy sources such as wind and solar. However, concerns about the safety, risk, and environmental impacts associated with shale gas development must be addressed before production can significantly increase.
The Office of Fossil Energy is focusing on resolving these issues to assure a safe and environmentally sustainable supply of natural gas. The FE program consists of the following activities:
The DOE Shale Gas program collaborates with other Federal and State agencies, industry, academia, Non-governmental Organizations and National Labs to advance oil and gas exploration and production technologies in the most effective and environmentally responsible manner. DOE is refocusing the work done under Section 999 (Subtitle J) of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 on safety, environmental sustainability, and quantifying the risks of exploration and production activity. DOE is also developing tools to aid operators in meeting the environmental and economic challenges in managing produced water including water minimization and treatment/disposal and reuse.
The DOE Oil and Natural Gas program leverages its knowledge of the petroleum industry and research capability to provide unbiased scientific information as a basis for regulation. As part of this effort, DOE is participating in the 2010-2012 EPA Hydraulic Fracturing Study and provides comments for rulemaking by other government agencies such as the Department of the Interior and the Forest Service.
Collaborative projects with the Ground Water Protection Council, the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission, the Stripper Well Consortium, DOE's Rocky Mountain Oilfield Testing Center and NETL’s Regional University Alliance assure that R&D projects are responsive to public concerns.