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Shale Gas or Tight Gas is natural gas trapped in rock formations that have smaller pore spaces and lower permeability than traditional reservoirs. These formations require hydraulic fracturing for production.

SHALE GAS

Definition

Shale gas is the name for natural gas trapped within sedimentary shale rocks[1]House of Commons, Energy and Climate Change Committee (May 2011). “Shale Gas“. Retrieved from http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201012/cmselect/cmenergy/795/79502.htmHouse of Commons, Energy and Climate Change Committee (May 2011). “Shale Gas“. Retrieved from http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201012/cmselect/cmenergy/795/79502.htmHouse of Commons, Energy and Climate Change Committee (May 2011). “Shale Gas“. Retrieved from http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201012/cmselect/cmenergy/795/79502.htm. Unlike conventional gas, shale gas does not accumulate in large volumes underneath impermeable “trap” rocks. It is therefore referred to as an unconventional gas, along with other types of unconventional gas resources, like coal-bed methane and tight gas.

Shale gas is the term often used to describe both tight gas and shale gas resources. The main difference between tight gas and shale gas, however, is that tight gas can be found in low permeability sedimentary rocks, such as sandstones, while shale gas rocks are usually impermeable[2]Royal Dutch Shell plc. “Understanding Tight and Shale Gas”. Retrieved from http://www.shell.us/aboutshell/shell-businesses/onshore/shale-tight.htmlRoyal Dutch Shell plc. “Understanding Tight and Shale Gas”. Retrieved from http://www.shell.us/aboutshell/shell-businesses/onshore/shale-tight.htmlRoyal Dutch Shell plc. “Understanding Tight and Shale Gas”. Retrieved from http://www.shell.us/aboutshell/shell-businesses/onshore/shale-tight.html

 
 

Shale gas reservoirs are usually called “plays” or “basins”, in contrast to the conventional gas “fields”. Within the impermeable shale rocks, the gas is trapped and sealed in unconnected fractures and pores. This requires specific extraction methods for its production. Hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling are used to increase the flow rate of the gas in shale gas rocks, which are usually wider than they are tall.

Context

Although natural gas from shale rocks has been used since 1821 [3]Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) (2013). “The unconventional hydrocarbon resources of Britain’s onshore basins - shale gas”. Retrieved from https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/367287/Shalegas_uk.pdfDepartment of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) (2013). “The unconventional hydrocarbon resources of Britain’s onshore basins - shale gas”. Retrieved from https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/367287/Shalegas_uk.pdfDepartment of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) (2013). “The unconventional hydrocarbon resources of Britain’s onshore basins - shale gas”. Retrieved from https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/367287/Shalegas_uk.pdf, it was not until innovations in hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) and horizontal drilling brought down the costs and allowed the resource to be mass-produced.  In 2000 shale gas provided only about 1.6% of total U.S. natural gas production[4]Wang Z., & Krupnick A. (April 2013).  “A Retrospective Review of Shale Gas Development in the United States”. Retrieved from http://www.rff.org/RFF/documents/RFF-DP-13-12.pdfWang Z., & Krupnick A. (April 2013).  “A Retrospective Review of Shale Gas Development in the United States”. Retrieved from http://www.rff.org/RFF/documents/RFF-DP-13-12.pdfWang Z., & Krupnick A. (April 2013).  “A Retrospective Review of Shale Gas Development in the United States”. Retrieved from http://www.rff.org/RFF/documents/RFF-DP-13-12.pdf by 2013, it accounted for about 39% [5]Energy Information Administration (EIA) (November 2014). “How much shale gas is produced in the United States?”. Retrieved from http://www.eia.gov/tools/faqs/faq.cfm?id=907&t=8Energy Information Administration (EIA) (November 2014). “How much shale gas is produced in the United States?”. Retrieved from http://www.eia.gov/tools/faqs/faq.cfm?id=907&t=8Energy Information Administration (EIA) (November 2014). “How much shale gas is produced in the United States?”. Retrieved from http://www.eia.gov/tools/faqs/faq.cfm?id=907&t=8.

No other country has yet experienced a growth of the shale gas industry similar in scale to the U.S. This is largely due to the lack of infrastructure and the ongoing debate around the political, social and environmental consequences that such an industry could bring to many of the countries with proven reserves.

Hydraulic fracturing and the components of the hydraulic fracturing fluid are a primary source of controversy. Although the fluid is largely composed of water, about 0.5% contains chemical additives. This equates to large amounts of chemicals being used and millions of gallons of water needed for fracturing operations[6]Earthworks. “Hydraulic Fracturing 101”. Retrieved from http://www.earthworksaction.org/issues/detail/hydraulic_fracturing_101#.VNJCumSsWGwEarthworks. “Hydraulic Fracturing 101”. Retrieved from http://www.earthworksaction.org/issues/detail/hydraulic_fracturing_101#.VNJCumSsWGwEarthworks. “Hydraulic Fracturing 101”. Retrieved from http://www.earthworksaction.org/issues/detail/hydraulic_fracturing_101#.VNJCumSsWGw. In addition, there have also been concerns linking fracking to enhanced seismic activity.  In the wake of this debate, several countries placed local or nation-wide bans on fracking[7]Keep Tap Water Safe (January 2015) “List of Bans Worldwide”. Retrieved from http://keeptapwatersafe.org/global-bans-on-fracking/Keep Tap Water Safe (January 2015) “List of Bans Worldwide”. Retrieved from http://keeptapwatersafe.org/global-bans-on-fracking/Keep Tap Water Safe (January 2015) “List of Bans Worldwide”. Retrieved from http://keeptapwatersafe.org/global-bans-on-fracking/.

Shale gas has higher GHG emissions than conventional natural gas, due to the additional need for energy input during extraction. 

References

  1. ^ House of Commons, Energy and Climate Change Committee (May 2011). “Shale Gas“. Retrieved from http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201012/cmselect/cmenergy/795/79502.htm
  2. ^ Royal Dutch Shell plc. “Understanding Tight and Shale Gas”. Retrieved from http://www.shell.us/aboutshell/shell-businesses/onshore/shale-tight.html
  3. ^ Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) (2013). “The unconventional hydrocarbon resources of Britain’s onshore basins - shale gas”. Retrieved from https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/367287/Shalegas_uk.pdf
  4. ^ Wang Z., & Krupnick A. (April 2013).  “A Retrospective Review of Shale Gas Development in the United States”. Retrieved from http://www.rff.org/RFF/documents/RFF-DP-13-12.pdf
  5. ^ Energy Information Administration (EIA) (November 2014). “How much shale gas is produced in the United States?”. Retrieved from http://www.eia.gov/tools/faqs/faq.cfm?id=907&t=8
  6. ^ Earthworks. “Hydraulic Fracturing 101”. Retrieved from http://www.earthworksaction.org/issues/detail/hydraulic_fracturing_101#.VNJCumSsWGw
  7. ^ Keep Tap Water Safe (January 2015) “List of Bans Worldwide”. Retrieved from http://keeptapwatersafe.org/global-bans-on-fracking/

Sorry, we do not yet have a video specifically for Shale Gas.  We are adding new videos to StudentEnergy.org weekly, but in the meantime check out this video on Hydraulic Fracturing.

Take a Step Back

Unconventional Gas

Unconventional gas refers to natural gas that requires advanced production methods. Main types include gas within tight pore spaces - shale gas and coal bed methane - and gas that is trapped in ice on the sea floor - gas hydrates.

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Hydraulic Fracturing

Hydraulic fracturing is an oil and gas production technique used in tight geologic formations that involves horizontal directional drilling of wells as well as the use of water, sand and chemicals at high pressures to fracture rock and release hydrocarbons.