US natural gas reserves rise in the global ranks

HOUSTON — Even as the United States rises to become the world’s biggest oil producer, the nation’s proved reserves don’t even rank among the top 10.

The U.S. had 26.5 billion barrels of proved oil reserves in 2012, ranking No. 12 globally at less than 10 percent of that found in either Venezuela or Saudi Arabia. Venezuela is just shy of 300 billion barrels of proved oil reserves, making it the most oil rich country in the world, with Saudi Arabia close behind with 267.9 billion barrels.

But the United States’ proved reserves of natural gas are the fourth largest in the world, at 334 trillion cubic feet as of 2012, according to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration. That places the United States behind Russia, Iran and Qatar, but ahead of Saudi Arabia and countless others.

In order for identified oil or gas to be considered proven, it must be deemed recoverable under current economic conditions. This definition gives some nations a sudden boost in proved reserves when new technologies emerge. For example, Canada, which has also benefited from the unconventional drilling boom, holds 173.1 billion barrels, giving it the third largest stash of reserves.

The U.S. has increased its proved oil reserves by 39 percent since 2008, according to EIA data, as new unconventional drilling techniques have made several shale resources economic to drill. The spike in proved reserves is the first significant increase since 1970, following the discovery of oil in Alaska’s Prudhoe Bay field in 1968.

The US also has 200 billion barrels of technically recoverable reserves, the EIA said.

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