The Growth of Shale

By 2030, as much as 50 percent of the U.S. production of natural gas will come from shale rock, Deloitte analysts predicted this week.

The only unknown in that equation is environmentalist hoopla about risks they say fracing poses.

"There's so many wells being drilled and in so many parts of the country that it's an enormous challenge with the public," said Peter Robertson, an independent senior adviser who focuses on oil and gas issues for Deloitte LLP. "Every little slip gets enormously magnified."

In 2005, shale gas made up a small share of U.S. natural gas production but has since skyrocketed--in 2010 making up 20 percent of what is harvested domestically. By 2030, the portion will be 50 percent, with the biggest chunk coming from the Marcellus formation, Deloitte forecast.

This boom has helped keep prices low, but Deloitte expects prices to rebound over time — potentially reaching $8 to $10 per million British Thermal Units (BTU) by 2022. (Current pricing is at $3.39 per million BTU.) Regardless, Deloitte analysts said there is plenty of natural gas that can be commercially extracted as long as prices are around $4.

Benchmark U.S. crude has been trading at close to $100 a barrel. That gives natural gas a big advantage, and it aids the North American chemical industry that uses gas as a building block for making other products.

The relatively low natural gas price also gives producers new, higher-priced market opportunities outside the U.S., such as in Japan or Europe.

Excellent points that continue to support what we know to be true, fracing is making our energy resourcing safer and more reliable and is poised to continue to do so for years to come.