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Natural gas deposits said to be at record levels

Estimated recoverable U.S. natural gas deposits have jumped more than one-third in two years as a result of prolific drilling and stellar production in major shale-gas plays, led by the Barnett Shale in North Texas.

Independent exploration and production companies either based in Fort Worth, such as XTO Energy, or with major operations in the Barnett, like Oklahoma City-based Chesapeake Energy, are emerging as leading actors in shale plays in other regions.

An authority on natural gas resources, the Potential Gas Committee associated with the Colorado School of Mines, released its biennial assessment Thursday. It showed that the U.S. has an estimated 1,836 trillion cubic feet of natural gas that is technologically recoverable.

When coupled with already proved reserves of 238 trillion cubic feet, the projected future domestic gas supply swells to 2,074 trillion cubic feet, up 35 percent over two years ago and the highest estimate in the committee's 44-year history.

John Curtis, a geology professor at the Colorado school, said "new and advanced exploration, well drilling and completion technologies are allowing us increasingly better access to domestic gas resources — especially unconventional gas — which, not all that long ago, were considered impractical or uneconomical to pursue."

The Barnett Shale epitomizes what Curtis is talking about. Tarrant and Johnson counties – both devoid of oil and gas drilling activity for most of the 20th century – have been at the epicenter of the Barnett drilling boom enabled by advances in horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing techniques that have dramatically increased recovery of natural gas from tight formations.

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