Articles in The New York Times, The Dallas Morning News and others have noted that ExxonMobil’s agreement with XTO Energy, completed last week, highlights the expanding role of natural gas in general, and supplies of so-called “unconventional” natural gas in particular.
That’s true, for several reasons. But first, I’d like to point out that the term “unconventional gas” is often misunderstood. The resources we refer to as unconventional – such as tight gas, shale gas and coal bed methane — are increasingly part of the mainstream. Already, about one-third of U.S. gas demand is met by these resources; by 2030, unconventional gas is expected to meet more than 50 percent of domestic demand.
New technologies developed over the past 10 to 20 years have enabled ExxonMobil, XTO and others to reach these previously trapped resources. The result has been a significant turnaround in the domestic natural gas industry, with dramatic results for the U.S. economy and its energy security. For example:
- Last year, the United States overtook Russia as the world’s largest natural gas producer.
- The United States has enough natural gas to last about 100 years at current demand levels.
- The natural gas industry supports more than 2.8 million American jobs, with the potential to create more jobs as investment in natural gas production grows.
Because natural gas is the least-carbon-intensive fossil fuel, it can be a powerful tool for reducing emissions. Consider this: Natural gas can result in up to 60 percent less carbon-dioxide emissions than coal, currently the most popular fuel for power generation in the United States and around the world.
That statistic has drawn attention from a wide variety of people interested in finding solutions to our energy and environmental challenges. In a June 2009 article, ClimateProgress.org wrote that expanding supplies of natural gas in the United States “may be the single biggest game changer for climate action in the next two decades.”
ExxonMobil already produces more natural gas than any other public company in the world. With the addition of XTO’s high-quality people and portfolio, we will be able to produce more of this cleaner-burning fuel in the United States and around the world — while also supporting jobs, economic recovery, energy security, and environmental goals.