Regulating hydraulic fracturing in shale gas plays: The case of Texas
Department of Political Science, Texas State University, 601 University Drive, San Marcos, TX 78666, USA
Received 8 January 2011
Accepted 2 March 2011
Available online 22 March 2011
The ability to economically produce natural gas from unconventional shale gas reservoirs has been
made possible recently through the application of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing. This new
technique has radically changed the energy future of the United States. The U.S. has shifted from a
waning producer of natural gas to a growing producer. The Energy Information Administration
forecasts that by 2035 nearly half of U.S. natural gas will come from shale gas. Texas is a major player
in these developments. Of the eight states and coastal areas that account for the bulk of U.S. gas, Texas
has the largest proved reserves. Texas’ Barnett Shale already produces six percent of the continental
U.S.’ gas and exploration of Texas’ other shale gas regions is just beginning. Shale gas production is
highly controversial, in part because of environmental concerns. Some U.S. states have put hydraulic
fracturing moratoriums in place because of fear of drinking water contamination. The federal
government has gotten involved and some states, like Texas, have accused it of overreaching. The
contention over shale gas drilling in the U.S. may be a bellwether for other parts of the world that are
now moving forward with their own shale gas production.
& 2011 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
In its 2011 Annual Energy Outlook, the U.S. Energy Information
Administration (EIA) estimates that the recoverable gas resources
from U.S. shale gas plays have more than doubled in the past year,
in large part due to the successful use of advanced drilling
techniques. Indeed, the report forecasts that by 2035, almost half
(45%) of the natural gas produced in the U.S. will come from shale
gas, up from 14% in 2009 (Energy Information Administration,
2011). Over the last few years new drilling techniques are
remapping the energy future of the U.S. These new drilling
techniques have opened vast quantities of natural gas. Estimates
suggest these new reserves will amount to 616 trillion cubic feet
(17,248 billion cubic meters)—about the same as Kuwait’s proven
reserves (Cox, 2010).
Almost all of the natural gas used in the United States is
domestically produced. Natural gas consumption accounts for
about one quarter of total U.S. energy use. While conventional
sources of natural gas are declining, unconventional sources like
shale gas are rapidly increasing. Instead of facing dwindling
reserves of conventional natural gas, the application of new
drilling techniques in shale gas reservoirs has turned the U.S.
from a nation of waning gas production to one of increasing
production. Texas is a major player in these developments and is
forecast to be the key state contributing to U.S. natural gas
supplies in the future. Of the eight U.S. states or coastal areas
that contain the bulk of U.S. proved gas reserves, Texas is the
largest accounting for nearly one third of the current U.S. total
(Energy Information Administration, 2010a). Texas’ Barnett Shale
already provides 6% of all natural gas produced in the continental
U.S. (Vaughan and Pursell, 2010). Texas’ proved reserves are just
beginning to be tapped.
Shale gas extraction using horizontal drilling and hydraulic
fracturing (fracking, fracing, or HF), a gas drilling technique
recently introduced, has revolutionized gas production in the
United States. Vertical HF is not new. A relatively recent innova-
tion in HF, however, incorporates horizontal drilling and multi-
stage fractures to get at what otherwise would be uneconomical
sources of gas that lie in unconventional reservoirs.
The U.S. may be a bellwether for other parts of the world.
Germany, Hungary, Romania, and Poland are participating in
discussions regarding the application of hydraulic fracturing to
get at their shale gas reserves. Exxon Mobil, ConocoPhillips,
Marathon Oil, and Chevron have already entered into negotiations
with Poland. The U.S. government is encouraging this effort by
establishing partnerships with other countries. In November of
2010 the U.S. entered into an agreement with China called the
U.S.–China Shale Gas Resource Initiative, and a similar partner-
ship was been created with Poland (Galbraith, 2010a).
The use of this technique and the gas drilling boom that has
resulted from its use has, however, led to some controversy and
environmental worries. Concern centers not only around air
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Energy Policy 39 (2011) 2974–2981