From Bureau of Economic Geology, The University of Texas at Austin (
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IPAA Annual Meeting, Austin, October 28, 2004

The Future is Unconventional
Impact on Independent Producers

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Scott W. Tinker


For well over a century there has been a predictable global transition away from solid energy fuels, to liquid energy fuels, to natural gas and other energy fuels. The global energy consumption trend toward natural gas and other energy sources has several positive outcomes. A global natural gas commodity market will help stabilize energy prices, combustion of natural gas will help to reduce atmospheric emissions relative to other fossil fuels, and natural gas is an excellent feedstock for hydrogen. Critical to a viable natural gas industry are a stable U.S production base combined with increased LNG imports.

As part of the long-term trend towards natural gas, there is a more subtle and often unrecognized trend showing an ever-greater percentage of U.S. natural gas production coming from unconventional sources. This U.S. production trend is critical because most of the world’s unconventional natural gas resources—shale gas, coal bed methane, tight gas, and other more exotic forms still to be proven commercial—have yet to be discovered and developed, indicating a likely very substantial global resource.

On this world stage, the U.S. will continue to set the pace for discovery and development of conventional and unconventional gas resources. The Rocky Mountain and Gulf Coast regions are key, but natural gas will be found and produced across the U.S. onshore and offshore from a variety of unconventional sources.