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Ask any natural gas producer and he or she will likely tell you that shale plays changed the energy game. Using a combination of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, producers are able to bring more natural gas to the market than was estimated they would a decade ago. Now, shale plays are forcing change at the college level.
These unconventional plays have had such an impact on the energy market that the Potential Gas Committee reevaluated its study of estimated natural gas reserves. In its report released this summer, the committee increased the amount of natural gas that it believes is locked inside these shale plays. In just two years, the number jumped 35 percent to 2,074 trillion cubic feet. In terms of current production – that’s roughly a century’s worth of natural gas.
Knowing that these unconventional plays will be a major share of the activity in oil and natural gas business over the next several years, the Colorado School of Mines is launching a research program designed to study the natural gas resources plays – the shales, coalbed methanes and gas hydrates.
“As a domestic energy source, natural gas is abundant, but ‘locked up’ in these unconventional reservoirs that we’re just now beginning to really understand,” Jennifer Miskimins, Director of the Unconventional Natural Gas Institute said in an e-mail. “As a ‘bridge’ fuel to alternative energies down the road, we need to further our understanding of maximizing recovery from these types of reservoirs.”
As more and more energy companies flock to these resource plays for drilling, the new Unconventional Natural Gas Institute will work to address technical challenges as well as answer questions that environmentalists and legislators are beginning to ask.
“There are numerous issues associated with development of these reservoirs, from improving technical recovery to understanding water use issues – problems that need to be solved in an environmentally sensitive, economic fashion,” Miskimins wrote.
While horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing seem to be the best methods at this point for recovering natural gas from these tight shales, technology is always evolving. The goal of the Institute is to find methods or technology that make producers better stewards of land, water and the overall environment.
“This lower carbon alternative will contribute to the diversification of our domestic energy supplies. It’s a critical piece in the nation’s energy puzzle,” said Colorado School of Mines President M.W. Scroggins.

The Colorado School of Mines is located in Golden, Colorado.

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As a ‘bridge’ fuel to alternative energies down the road, we need to further our understanding of maximizing recovery from these types of reservoirs. . .