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Abstract

The global energy marketplace is undergoing a predictable transition from coal in the 19th century, to oil in the 20th century, to natural gas and other non-fossil fuels in the 21st century. Oil as a percentage of total global energy “peaked” in 1979, and thus the 20th century will undoubtedly be remembered as the golden age of oil. The expansion of natural gas and other lower and non-carbon forms of energy in the 21st century has far-reaching implications and brings with it a number of favorable outcomes.

  • Natural gas is abundant and is found in more regions than oil; this illustrates energy diversity and security of supply.

  • With substantial growth expected in worldwide LNG in the coming decades, natural gas will have a global delivery infrastructure that will help stabilize energy prices, benefiting the macro-economies of most nations.

  • A global natural gas infrastructure will help make the transition to alternatives smoother.

  • Increased use of natural gas—to replace coal in power generation and oil in transportation—would help reduce atmospheric emissions.

A subtle but important corollary to the long-term trend toward natural gas shows an ever greater percentage of natural gas production coming from unconventional resources. One need only look to the United States, where coal-bed methane, shale gas and tight gas now represent over 50% of annual production (a benchmark achieved several years earlier than the Tinker forecast published in a 2004 Oil and Gas Investor article), and estimated unconventional natural gas resources have more than tripled the conventional gas resource base. As in the United States, a significant portion of the world’s remaining natural gas resource is probably unconventional—tight gas, coal-bed gas, shale gas representing technologically proven unconventional resources; and methane hydrates, ultra deep (15,000 to 30,000 ft), and brine gas resources as possible future unconventional components. The bulk of the global unconventional natural gas has not yet been developed, and it represents an enormous untapped resource.

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