Natural Gas Resources

Useful for heating, manufacturing, and as chemical feedstock, natural gas has the added benefit of producing fewer greenhouse gas emissions than other fossil fuels used in power production.The United States is endowed with an abundance of natural gas resources, so increasing use of natural gas power can help strengthen domestic energy security. NETL research efforts enhance technologies that reduce the cost, increase the efficiency, and reduce the environmental risk of finding and producing natural gas in domestic unconventional reservoirs, such as fractured shale source rocks. A significant part of the effort remains focused on catalyzing the development of technologies needed to treat fracturing flowback water, as well as on developing tools for operators and regulators to use in managing environmental risks and mitigating environmental impacts. The three research focus areas of Natural Gas Resources are shale gas, environmental, and other natural gas resources. 

Shale Gas

The magnitude of the natural gas resource recoverable from domestic fractured shales has only been recognized within the past decade as a combination of drilling and well completion technology advancements have made it possible to produce gas from shales at economic rates. NETL research efforts focus on further refining these technologies, characterizing the geology of emerging shale plays, and accelerating the development of technologies that can reduce the environmental impacts of shale play development.


Development of the nation’s natural gas resources must take place in a manner that minimizes environmental impact. NETL research focuses on quantifying the risk of impact to water, air, and surface ecosystems, and in developing new technologies for reducing these risks. Particular emphasis is placed on water management during shale gas development, including enhancement of water treatment technologies. 

Other Natural Gas Resources

Significant volumes of natural gas can also be produced from tight (low permeability) sandstone reservoirs and coal seams, both unconventional reservoir rocks. NETL funds research to better understand the underlying physics of natural gas production from these rocks and the relationship between well completion practices and productivity. The objective is to find ways to maximize recovery of natural gas from rocks, which just a few decades ago, were considered unproductive.

E&P Focus Newsletter: The oil and gas exploration and production R&D newsletter, E&P Focus, is a quarterly publication highlighting the latest developments in R&D being carried out by NETL.