Monday, March 14, 2011

CRS Report Ranks U.S. #1 In "Recoverable" Energy Resources

Mar 11: Senator James Inhofe (R-OK), Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, and Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Ranking Member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, released an updated government report from the Congressional Research Service (CRS) showing America's combined recoverable oil, natural gas, and coal endowment is the largest on Earth. The 28-page report, dated November 30, 2010, U.S. Fossil Fuel Resources: Terminology, Reporting, and Summary, indicates that America's recoverable resources are far larger than those of Saudi Arabia (3rd), China (4th), and Canada (6th) combined. And, according to the Senators, that's not including "America's immense oil shale and methane hydrates deposits."
    Senator Murkowski said, "It comes as no surprise that we are once again estimated to have the largest conventional energy resource endowment on Earth. As we debate ways to reduce gas prices and provide relief to American families and businesses, this report should be required reading for every member of Congress. For the sake of our national security, our economy, and the world's environment, we need to explore and develop more of our own resources."

    Senator Inhofe said, "The Obama Administration has made a conscious policy choice to raise energy prices, accomplished in good measure by restricting access to domestic energy supplies. Those supplies are, according to the Congressional Research Service, the largest on Earth. We could help bring affordable energy to consumers, create new jobs, and grow the economy if the Obama Administration would simply get out of the way so America can realize its true energy potential."
    According to a summary provided by CRS: "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 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.
    "Fossil fuels are categorized, classified, and named using a number of variables. Naturally occurring deposits of any material, whether it is fossil fuels, gold, or timber, comprise a broad spectrum of concentration, quality, and accessibility (geologic, technical, and cultural). Terminology is adopted to reflect those characteristics.
    "For oil and natural gas, a major distinction in measuring quantities of energy commodities is made between proved reserves and undiscovered resources. Proved reserves are those amounts of oil, natural gas, or coal that have been discovered and defined, typically by drilling wells or other exploratory measures, and which can be economically recovered. In the United States, proved reserves are typically measured by private companies, who report their findings to the Securities and Exchange Commission because they are considered capital assets. In addition to the volumes of proved reserves are deposits of oil and gas that have not yet been discovered, which are called undiscovered resources. The term has a specific meaning: undiscovered resources are amounts of oil and gas estimated to exist in unexplored areas. If they are considered to be recoverable using existing production technologies, they are referred to as undiscovered technically recoverable resources (UTRR). In-place resources are intended to represent all of the oil, natural gas, or coal contained in a formation or basin without regard to technical or economic recoverability.
    "In the United States, certain institutions are designated to determine and report quantities of oil, natural gas, and coal reserves and undiscovered resources. Other institutions also estimate these values, but differences in estimating methodology can produce significantly different values.
    "U.S. proved reserves of oil total 19.1 billion barrels, reserves of natural gas total 244.7 trillion cubic feet, and natural gas liquids reserves of 9.3 billion barrels. Undiscovered technically recoverable oil in the United States is 145.5 billion barrels, and undiscovered technically recoverable natural gas is 1,162.7 trillion cubic feet. The demonstrated reserve base for coal is 488 billion short tons, of which 261 billion short tons are considered technically recoverable.
    "Comparisons of different fuel types can be made by converting all of them to a common unit, such as barrels of oil equivalent, based on their heat content. The amounts of fossil fuels found in other nations as reserves and undiscovered resources are much more difficult to determine reliably because data are sometimes lacking or unreliable, but gross comparisons of national endowments can be made using available data.
    Senators Murkowski and Inhofe in a release, summarized and commented on the CRS report by energy resource sectors and said:
    "Oil: CRS offers a more accurate reflection of America's substantial oil resources.  While America is often depicted as possessing just 2 or 3 percent of the world's oil - a figure which narrowly relies on America's proven reserves of just 28 billion barrels - CRS has compiled US government estimates which show that America, the world's third-largest oil producer, is endowed with 163 billion barrels of recoverable oil. That's enough oil to maintain America's current rates of production and replace imports from the Persian Gulf for more than 50 years.  

    "Natural Gas: Further, CRS notes the 2009 assessment from the Potential Gas Committee, which estimates America's future supply of natural gas is 2,047 trillion cubic feet (TCF) - an increase of more than 25 percent just since the Committee's 2006 estimate.  At today's rate of use, this is enough natural gas to meet American demand for 90 years.

    "Coal: The report also shows that America is number one in coal resources, accounting for more than 28 percent of the world's coal. Russia, China, and India are in a distant 2nd, 3rd, and 5th, respectively. In fact, CRS cites America's recoverable coal reserves to be 262 billion short tons. For perspective, the US consumes just 1.2 billion short tons of coal per year. And though portions of this resource may not be accessible or economically recoverable today, these estimates could ultimately prove to be conservative. As CRS states: '...U.S. coal resource estimates do not include some potentially massive deposits of coal that exist in northwestern Alaska. These currently inaccessible coal deposits have been estimated to be more than 3,200 billion short tons of coal.'    

    "Oil Shale: While several pilot projects are underway to prove oil shale's future commercial viability, the Green River Formation located within Colorado, Wyoming, and Utah contains the equivalent of 6 trillion barrels of oil. The Department of Energy estimates that, of this 6 trillion, approximately 1.38 trillion barrels are potentially recoverable. That's equivalent to more than five times the conventional oil reserves of Saudi Arabia. 
    "Methane Hydrates: Although not yet commercially feasible, methane hydrates, according to the Department of Energy, possess energy content that is "immense ... possibly exceeding the combined energy content of all other known fossil fuels."  While estimates vary significantly, the United States Geological Survey (USGS) recently testified that: "the mean in-place gas hydrate resource for the entire United States is estimated to be 320,000 TCF of gas."  For perspective, if just 3% of this resource can be commercialized in the years ahead, at current rates of consumption, that level of supply would be enough to provide America's natural gas for more than 400 years."
    Access a release from the Senators (click here). Access the CRS report (click here).
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