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Robert Rapier

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The Top 10 Producers Leading A Global Shale Bonanza

  • The U.S. tops the list for technically recoverable tight oil resources, while China leads in shale gas reserves.
  • Challenges in developing shale gas include water availability, particularly in dry regions like some areas in China.
  • China's significant investment in shale gas development signals its emergence as a major player in the global energy market, alongside other contenders like Argentina.

The U.S. is the global leader in the production of natural gas and oil derived from shale formations. However, there are other countries with significant quantities of technically recoverable resources.

In 2015 the U.S. Energy Information Administration updated its assessment of world shale oil and shale gas resources. The U.S. has the world’s largest estimated recoverable resource of tight oil. This refers to crude oil that is trapped within low-permeability rock formations, such as shale, sandstone, or limestone. The oil is extracted using hydraulic fracturing, commonly known as fracking, typically in combination with horizontal drilling.

Here is a summary of the ten countries with the greatest technically recoverable shale oil resources worldwide, based on the EIA data.

Top 10 Countries with Tight Oil Resources. ROBERT RAPIER

Note that these are estimates of the technically recoverable tight oil resources in each of these countries. Whether they are economically recoverable will depend on prevailing oil prices.

Although the U.S. leads in the category of tight oil, China is the global leader in shale gas resources.

Top 10 Countries with Shale Gas Resources. ROBERT RAPIER

One of the challenges in developing shale gas resources is water is needed to hydraulically fracture the formations. For some countries, the resources are located in dry regions. This is the case with some of China’s shale gas resources.

However, due to China’s growing energy demand, the country is investing billions into developing its shale gas resources. Commercial exploration and production of shale gas got underway in China in June 2011, when the country conducted its first round of shale gas bidding.

Private companies now have greater access to shale resources in China due to a change in legal status from a “natural resource” to an “independent mining resource.” China’s first large-scale commercial shale gas production operation began in March 2014.


Given the size of the resource, expect countries like China and Argentina to become major players in the production of shale gas. But that also means that the shale boom taking place in the U.S. may just be getting started globally.

By Robert Rapier

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