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Production from tight-gas sands has been a growing and indispensable component of U.S. gas production. This chapter discusses three dimensions of the contribution from tight-gas sands to national gas production from 1990 to 2005: (1) within the context of total U.S. gas production, (2) by comparison to other unconventional sources of domestic gas production, and (3) the geographical distribution and geological composition of tight-gas sands production. It concludes with a forecast of future tight-sandstone gas production.

For this analysis, tight-sandstone reservoirs are defined as those commonly considered to be tight, that is, low-permeability sandstone reservoirs that require massive hydraulic fracturing to produce in commercial quantities. Thirty-four plays were identified in the contiguous 48 states as tight-sandstone gas plays.

From 1990 to 2005, gas production in the contiguous 48 states grew from 16.9 to 18.0 tcf. This overall growth was possible only because of growth in unconventional gas production from 2.8 to 8.9 tcf (16.6% in 1990 to 49.5% of national production in 2005). Tight sandstones were the most important source of this unconventional production, reaching 4.34 tcf in 2005 (24.1% of national production and 48.8% of unconventional production).

Three geographic areas have provided most tight-sandstone gas production over the past 15 yr: the western Rocky Mountain basins, east Texas and north Louisiana, and south Texas. The western Rocky Mountain basins (42% of tight-sandstone production in 2005) and east Texas and north Louisiana (27% of 2005 production) are the main centers of tight-sandstone production.

Tight-sandstone gas production is concentrated in several crucial (producing at least 500 mmcf/day) and major (200–500 mmcf/day daily production) plays. The 10 crucial plays produced 3.02 tcf in 2005, 69.5% of tight-sandstone gas production. The 11 major plays produced 1.08 tcf in 2005, 25% of production.

Tight-sandstone gas production should continue to increase to 2010 primarily because of continued increases in production in half of the crucial plays. Production is likely to stabilize in the 5.0–5.5 tcf/yr range from 2010 to 2015. By 2020, tight-sandstone gas production is likely to decline because of the size of the technically and economically recoverable tight-sandstone gas resource.

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