Controversial path to possible glut of natural gas

After decades of declining US natural-gas production, an advanced drilling system so powerful it fractures rock with high-pressure fluid is opening up vast shale-gas deposits.

Instead of falling, US gas production is rising, with up to 118 years’ worth of “unconventional” natural gas reserves in 21 huge shale basins, an industry study in July reported. Such reserves could make the nation more energy self-sufficient and provide more of a cleaner “bridge fuel” to help meet carbon-reduction goals urged by environmentalists.

Shale gas reserves have a powerful economic lure. Companies, states, and landowners could all reap a windfall in the tens of billions. Some also predict lower heating costs for residential gas users as production increases.

Now, scores of natural gas companies are fanning out from Fort Worth, Texas, where hydraulic fracturing of shale has been done for at least five years, to lease shale lands in 19 states, including Pennsylvania and New York.

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