This paper presents a methodology for connecting geology, hydraulic fracturing, economics, environment and the global natural gas endowment in conventional, tight, shale and coalbed methane (CBM) reservoirs. The volumetric estimates are generated by a variable shape distribution model (VSD). The VSD has been shown in the past to be useful for the evaluation of conventional and tight gas reservoirs. However, this is the first paper in which the method is used to also include shale gas and CBM formations.. Results indicate a total gas endowment of 70000 tcf, split between 15000 tcf in conventional reservoirs, 15000 tcf in tight gas, 30000 tcf in shale gas and 10000 tcf in CBM reservoirs. Thus, natural gas formations have potential to provide a significant contribution to global energy demand estimated at approximately 790 quads by 2035.

A common thread between unconventional formations is that nearly all of them must be hydraulically fractured to attain commercial production. A significant volume of data indicates that the probabilities of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) fluids and/or methane contaminating ground water through the hydraulically-created fractures are very low. Since fracking has also raised questions about the economic viability of producing unconventional gas in some parts of the world, supply cost curves are estimated in this paper for the global gas portfolio. The curves show that, in some cases, the costs of producing gas from unconventional reservoirs are comparable to those of conventional gas.

The conclusion is that there is enough natural gas to supply the energy market for nearly 400 years at current rates of consumption and 110 years with a growth rate in production of 2% per year. With appropriate regulation, this may be done safely, commercially, and in a manner that is more benign to the environment as compared with other fossil fuels.

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