Columbia International Affairs Online: Working Papers

CIAO DATE: 12/2011

Breaking new ground: A special report on global shale gas developments

November 2011

Economist Intelligence Unit


Worries about climate change are deepening in many countries. Proponents of gas, which burns cleaner than coal, suggest that it could be part of the answer—but preferably indigenous gas, for the sake of energy security. At the same time, even as energy demand surges ahead, the giants of the oil industry are finding it harder than ever to tap new reserves, which is forcing them to look to previously neglected, harder-to-reach hydrocarbons. Among these, hitherto disregarded shale gas reserves are generating the most enthusiasm. The groundwork for this has been a remarkable upswing of activity in the US, where over the past decade innovative techniques have propelled shale gas from irrelevance to a position where it now makes up one-quarter of all natural gas production. The US Energy Information Administration, an official government body, forecasts that this proportion will roughly double by 2035. And although the shale gas story has been overwhelmingly a US one to date, the search for shale is accelerating around the world. In this special report, we bring together a collection of recent articles looking at fledgling shale gas developments worldwide, with a focus on the countries thought to hold the largest reserves.