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EIA: WV, US gas and liquids reserves up in 2011

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Proved wet gas reserves in West Virginia were up 143 percent in 2011 over 2010, to 6 trillion cubic feet, according to an Aug. 1 update on oil and natural gas reserves from the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Proved wet gas reserves for the U.S. as a whole rose by 35 percent, or 31.2 Tcf, in 2011 to a new record high of 348.8 Tcf — only the second year since 1977 that natural gas net reserves additions surpassed 30 Tcf, the agency enthused in its report summary. "Wet gas" includes methane and natural gas liquids.

And proved reserves of crude oil and lease condensate increased 15 percent in 2011, at 3.8 billion barrels, the greatest volume increase since the agency started publishing reserves estimates in 1977.

The agency attributed the strong increases to continued horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing in shale and other "tight," or very low permeability, formations.

The EIA bases its estimates on an annual survey of about 1,100 domestic operators of oil and gas wells.

Proved reserves, those that are thought to be recoverable under existing economic and operating conditions, change with new discoveries, with more thorough appraisals of existing fields, with prices and with technology.  

Based on that, the agency noted that higher crude oil prices in 2011 both justified more drilling and development and drove adjusted forecasts of future production, while lower natural gas prices had a dampening effect on natural gas proved reserves.

The West Virginia increase was the highest percentage increase in proved reserves in any state, although not the highest volume increase.

Similar to proved wet gas reserves in West Virginia, proved reserves in the Marcellus Shale rose 142 percent in 2011, from 13.2 to 31.9 Tcf, pulling it ahead of the Haynesville Shale to trail only the Barnett — and that only slightly. Barnett proved reserves rose less than 2 Tcf in 2011 to stand at 32.6 Tcf.

Three states — Texas, Pennsylvania and Louisiana  —  accounted for 72 percent of proved shale gas  reserves in 2011. West Virginia fell at number six among states.

Looking ahead to next year's estimate of reserves based on 2012 data, the agency said, low natural gas prices in the early part of the year can be expected to result in price-driven negative revisions; oil prices were relatively flat in 2012 and should not contribute materially to changes in reserves estimates.