The history and growth of the unconventional gas industry

The last decade has seen a major global growth of interest in the exploitation of unconventional gas reserves. Due to the difficulties involved in the extraction process, in the past unconventional gas was generally not considered to be an economically viable enterprise. However, as the fossil fuel industry becomes more desperate to maintain its stranglehold on the energy sector, the focus has landed on unconventional gas. In the last two decades in the United States, advances in technology, particularly hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling, have allowed for the exploitation of these resources and has led to the major development of unconventional gas. Unconventional gas production is currently concentrated in North America, and until recently occurred almost exclusively in the US. Outside of the US, Canada, Australia and China are currently some of the few countries that have commercially operating productions of unconventional gas.

However, many severe impacts of unconventional gas development have been documented, which has raised community opposition and concern. This  has helped to slow the expansion of the industry in some countries. For instance, in France and Bulgaria, hydraulic fracturing has been banned, and in France a moratorium was placed on exploration and drilling for shale.

In the mid 1990’s, the Australian Government and industry began focusing on developing an unconventional gas industry. Unconventional gas resources in Australia are estimated to be far greater than conventional sources, dominated by shale gas and coal seam gas. Currently, coal seam gas (CSG) is the only unconventional gas being commercially produced. CSG production began in 1996 in Queensland. Since that time, the industry has expanded across Queensland and NSW, and more recently into Victoria.