Overview of Unconventional Oil and Natural Gas: Resources and Federal Actions [January 5, 2015]   [open pdf - 627KB]

"The United States has seen resurgence in petroleum production, mainly driven by technology improvements--especially hydraulic fracturing and directional drilling--developed for natural gas production from shale formations. Application of these technologies enabled natural gas to be economically produced from shale and other unconventional formations, and contributed to the United States becoming the world's largest natural gas producer in 2009. Use of these technologies has also contributed to the rise in U.S. oil production over the last few years. In 2009, annual oil production increased over 2008, the first annual rise since 1991, and has continued to increase each year since. Between January 2008 and May 2014, U.S. monthly crude oil production rose by 3.2 million barrels per day, with about 85% of the increase coming from shale and related tight oil formations in Texas and North Dakota. Other tight oil plays are also being developed, helping raise the prospect of energy independence, especially for North America. The rapid expansion of tight oil and shale gas extraction using high-volume hydraulic fracturing has raised concerns about its potential environmental and health impacts. These concerns include potential direct impacts to groundwater and surface water quality, water supplies, and air quality. In addition, some have raised concerns about potential long-term and indirect impacts from reliance on fossil fuels and resulting greenhouse gas emissions and influence on broader energy economics. This report focuses mainly on actions related to controlling potential direct impacts."

Report Number:
CRS Report for Congress, R43148
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