EIA: Marcellus #1 Proved Reserves Shale in U.S., PA #2 for Gas

Yesterday the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), our favorite government agency (the only one worth funding in our opinion) issued its annual U.S. Crude Oil and Natural Gas Proved Reserves for 2012 report (full copy embedded below). It takes a long time to crunch and analyze the numbers, hence these kinds of reports are 2 years delayed. But wow! What an interesting report. It shows that in 2012 the Marcellus Shale became the nation’s largest shale play–at least by proved reserves–surpassing the Barnett Shale in Texas, the former reigning champ of proved reserves. Pennsylvania rocketed from fifth to second largest gas reserve state. The report also shows the Texas Eagle Ford Shale play passed the North Dakota Bakken to become the largest tight oil shale play in the U.S. That’s the big big news. But there’s plenty of smaller big news too.

First up, what the heck is proved reserves? The EIA defines it this way: “Proved reserves are volumes of oil and natural gas that geological and engineering data demonstrate with reasonable certainty to be recoverable in future years from known reservoirs under existing economic and operating conditions.” You might think proved reserves are our best guess as to how much total oil or gas is down there, based on sound scientific data. But you would be wrong. It’s what’s down there that we’re willing to go get based on today’s economics. Important distinction. What that means is the commodity price for oil and gas has a lot to do with proved reserves numbers. The oil and gas can be locked away down there (indeed it is down there), but if we’re not willing to get it out of the ground because we can’t make a profit–it might as well not exist…

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