Just as experts have concluded that advances in well stimulation technology applied to horizontal gas wells have expanded available natural gas reserves, questions are being raised about water pollution related to its use and Congress is considering tighter regulation of some growing practices. Yet a report issued this month by the Colorado School of Mines’ Potential Gas Committee maintains that the safe and responsible use of hydraulic fracturing has helped expand U.S. natural gas reserves by 58 percent in just four years. “We’ve always known that America’s shale regions held enormous energy potential, but without proper tools in place, it wasn’t clear whether we could ever convert that potential into real-world production,” said Lee Fuller, policy director for Energy In Depth, a new American oil and natural gas industry coalition. As is well known, hydraulic fracturing is used to stimulate flow from new and existing oil and gas wells. By creating or even restoring millimeter-thick fissures, the surface area of a formation exposed to the bore hole increases and the fracture provides a conductive path that connects the reservoir to the well. These new paths increase the rate that fluids can be produced from the reservoir formations, in some cases by many hundreds of percent. Further, the rapid shift in natural gas development to shale gas formations, says the Potential Gas Committee, means that roughly 90 percent of new wells require some form of fracture stimulation to assist their production. The committee believes the US is sitting atop natural gas reserves of about 2,074 trillion cubic feet according to the committee, or “nearly 100 years worth of production.” This number includes the proven reserves compiled by the Energy Department of 237 trillion cubic feet, as well as the sum of the nation’s probable, possible, and speculative reserves. The committee goes on to further state that legislation aimed at “destroying the current state-federal partnership in regulating hydraulic fracturing was introduced in both the Senate and House last week.” Recent studies on the legislation, known collectively as Project BRIEF, predict the consequences of its enactment could force closure of more than half of America’s oil wells and a third of its gas wells, slashing domestic oil production by 183,000 b/d and natural gas by 245 billion cubic feet per year. According to a recent article in the New York Times, natural gas currently accounts of about a quarter of the nation’s total energy use, and 22 percent of electrical production. While gas generates less carbon dioxide than oil or coal, it still accounted for about 20 percent of domestic energy-related emissions in 2006. The Energy Department estimates that demand for natural gas will rise by 13 percent by 2030. In the power sector, utilities have been switching to natural gas from coal, said the Times article, “but further increases in the use of gas will most likely depend on whether Congress puts a price on carbon dioxide emissions, as it is considering,” which would favor cleaner fuels like gas.