Resource beginning to be tapped globally

Coalbed Methane’s Role Growing

Unconventional resources such as coalbed methane will become progressively more important worldwide as population continues to grow at an unprecedented – and possibly unsustainable – rate.

As a result, coalbed methane and other unconventional resources undoubtedly will play an important role in supplying energy needs to both economically developed and emerging nations worldwide in the foreseeable future.

Preliminary worldwide coalbed methane resources are estimated to range between 5,800 and 24,215 Tcf (164 to 686 Tm3).

The largest potential resources, which also have the largest degree of uncertainty, are in the Former Soviet Union with 4,000 to 16,116 Tcf (113 to 456Tm3). North America ranges between 951 to 4,383 Tcf (27 to 124 Tm3), whereas South America and Europe range from 15 to 32 Tcf (42 to 91 Bm3) and 161 to 269 Tcf (4.6 to 7.6 Tm3), respectively. Africa ranges between 27 to 55 Tcf (760 to 1,557 Bm3), and the Middle East has no coalbed methane resources. The Asia Pacific region, which includes China, ranges from 646 to 3,360 Tcf (18 to 95 Tm3).

The rate of coalbed methane resource development within individual countries will be highly variable due to local economic factors and government energy priorities and policies.

The United States remains the world leader in coalbed gas exploration, booked reserves and production, although coalbed methane production is expanding internationally – particularly in Canada and Australia, and commercial production from India will undoubtedly accelerate in the near future.

In North America, there is commercial coalbed gas production or exploration in approximately 12 U.S. and several Canadian basins. Coalbed methane now represents 9 percent of 2006 dry-gas production and 9 percent of proved dry-gas reserves in the United States, with the major producing areas located in the San Juan, Powder River, Black Warrior, Raton, Central Appalachian and Uinta (Ferron and Book Cliffs) basins.

Other U.S. areas with significant exploration or production are the Cherokee, Arkoma, Illinois, Hanna, Gulf Coast and Greater Green River basins.

Annual coalbed methane production in the United States continues to increase, but not as rapidly as in previous years. The annual 2006 coalbed methane production was up slightly (1,758 Bcf; 49.8 Bm3) from 2005 coalbed methane production, which was 1,732 Bcf (49.0 Bm3) from an estimated 54,000 wells (figure 1).

Coalbed methane reserves decreased slightly from 19.892 Tcf (563.3 Bm3) in 2004 to 19.620 Tcf (555.6 Bm3) in 2006, representing a decrease of only 72 Bcf (7.7 Bm3) (figure 2).

There are two important facts to remember:

  • Demand for natural gas in the United States is expected to increase 50 percent over the next 20 years as additional co-generation power plants and natural gas electric power generation facilities are constructed.
  • The global demand for energy will continue to increase regardless of the current economic downturn as the middle classes of emerging economies such as China and India continue to expand.

Therefore, development of unconventional resources such as coalbed methane and gas shales worldwide is critical for economic stability and continued growth.

Enhanced coalbed methane recovery using sequestered greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide) and microbial conversion of the coal and sorbed gases into methane may represent a solution to solving energy and environmental objectives simultaneously and development of these technologies is accelerating to meet global demand.  

Comments (0)


Division Column-EMD

The Energy Minerals Division (EMD), a division of AAPG, is dedicated to addressing the special concerns of energy resource geologists working with energy resources other than conventional oil and gas, providing a vehicle to keep abreast of the latest developments in the geosciences and associated technology. EMD works in concert with the Division of Environmental Geosciences to serve energy resource and environmental geologists.

View column archives

See Also: Book

Desktop /Portals/0/images/_site/AAPG-newlogo-vertical-morepadding.jpg?width=50&h=50&mode=crop&anchor=middlecenter&quality=90amp;encoder=freeimage&progressive=true 4081 Book

See Also: CD DVD

Desktop /Portals/0/images/_site/AAPG-newlogo-vertical-morepadding.jpg?width=50&h=50&mode=crop&anchor=middlecenter&quality=90amp;encoder=freeimage&progressive=true 4444 CD-DVD

See Also: DL Abstract

The Gulf of Mexico (GOM) is the 9th largest body of water on earth, covering an area of approximately 1.6 million km2 with water depths reaching 4,400 m (14,300’). The basin formed as a result of crustal extension during the early Mesozoic breakup of Pangaea. Rifting occurred from the Late Triassic to early Middle Jurassic. Continued extension through the Middle Jurassic combined with counter-clockwise rotation of crustal blocks away from North America produced highly extended continental crust in the subsiding basin center. Subsidence eventually allowed oceanic water to enter from the west leading to thick, widespread, evaporite deposition. Seafloor spreading initiated in the Late Jurassic eventually splitting the evaporite deposits into northern (USA) and southern (Mexican) basins. Recent work suggests that this may have been accomplished by asymmetric extension, crustal delamination, and exposure of the lower crust or upper mantle rather than true sea floor spreading (or it could be some combination of the two). By 135 Ma almost all extension had ceased and the basic configuration of the GOM basin seen today was established. The Laramide Orogeny was the last major tectonic event impacting the GOM. It caused uplift and erosion for the NW margin from the Late Cretaceous to early Eocene.

Desktop /Portals/0/images/_site/AAPG-newlogo-vertical-morepadding.jpg?width=50&h=50&mode=crop&anchor=middlecenter&quality=90amp;encoder=freeimage&progressive=true 3078 DL Abstract

See Also: Learn! Blog

Looking at a formation as a source rock, then turning around and considering it a viable reservoir requires you to be able to shift your thinking and to analyze a great deal of data in a new way. If you don’t, you risk not understanding the nature of “sweet spots” and how to accurately complete or use reservoir characterization studies.

Desktop /Portals/0/PackFlashItemImages/WebReady/ec-fec-my-source-rock-is-now-my-reservoir.jpg?width=50&h=50&mode=crop&anchor=middlecenter&quality=90amp;encoder=freeimage&progressive=true 12765 Learn! Blog

See Also: Short Course

Here is an introduction to the tools and techniques that geologists and geophysicists use to locate gas and oil, that drillers use to drill the wells and that petroleum engineers use to test and complete the wells and produce the gas and oil. Exercises throughout the course provide practical experience in well log correlation, contouring, interpretation of surface and subsurface, contoured maps, seismic interpretation, well log interpretation, and decline curve analysis.

Desktop /Portals/0/PackFlashItemImages/WebReady/sc-basic-petroleum-geology-for-the-non-geologist.jpg?width=50&h=50&mode=crop&anchor=middlecenter&quality=90amp;encoder=freeimage&progressive=true 13606 Short Course