It is increasingly claimed that the world is entering a ‘golden age of gas’, with the exploitation of unconventional resources expected to transform gas markets around the world. But the future development of these resources is subject to multiple uncertainties, particularly with regard to the size and recoverability of the physical resource.

Even in regions such as the United States where production is relatively advanced, estimates of recoverable resources are contested and are frequently the subject of radical revisions. But this is eclipsed by the much greater uncertainty surrounding unconventional gas resources in the rest of the world.

This report assesses the currently available evidence on the size of unconventional gas resources at the regional and global level. Focusing in particular on shale gas, it provides a comprehensive summary and comparison of the estimates that have been produced to date. It also examines the methods by which these resource estimates have been produced the strengths and weaknesses of those methods, the range of uncertainty in the results and the factors that are relevant to their interpretation.

The report finds that technically recoverable resources of shale gas may be half as large as those for conventional gas, but there are major uncertainties in resource estimates, even for regions where development is relatively advanced.

The majority of studies fail to address this uncertainty, and there are considerable difficulties in comparing and combining estimates from different studies. The report also highlights significant limitations in currently available estimation methodologies.

The UKERC study  formed part of a larger study of unconventional gas resources by the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission.

A Review of Regional and Global Estimates of Unconventional Gas Resources

The full JRC report Unconventional Gas: Potential Energy Market Impacts in the European Union, is available to download here.