Salazar,J., McVay,D.A. and Lee,W.J.(2010): Development of an improved methodology to assess potential unconventional gas resources. Natural Resources Research, 19(4), 253-267.


 Considering the important role played today by unconventional gas resources in North America and their enormous potential for the future around the world, i is vital to both policy makers and industry that the volumes of these resources and the impact of technology on these resources be assessed. To provide for optimal decision making regarding energy policy, research funding, and resource development, it is necessary to reliably quantify the uncertainty in these resource assessments. Since the 1970s, studies to assess potential unconventional gas resources have been conducted by various private and governmental agencies, the most rigorous of which was by the United States Geological Survey (USGS). The USGS employed a cell-based, probabilistic methodology which used analytical equations to calculate distributions of the resources assessed. USGS assessments have generally produced distributions for potential unconventional gas resources that, in our judgment, are unrealistically narrow for what are essentially undiscovered, untested resources. In this article, we present an improved methodology to assess potential unconventional gas resources. Our methodology is a stochastic approach that includes Monte Carlo simulation and correlation between input variables. Application of the improved methodology to the Uinta-Piceance province of Utah and Colorado with USGS data validates the means and standard deviations of resource distributions produced by the USGS methodology, but reveals that these distributions are not right skewed, as expected for a natural resource. Our investigation indicates that the unrealistic shape and width of the gas resource distributions are caused by the use of narrow triangular input parameter distributions. The stochastic methodology proposed here is more versatile and robust than the USGS analytic methodology. Adoption of the methodology, along with a careful examination and revision of input distributions, should allow a more realistic assessment of the uncertainty surrounding potential unconventional gas resources.

Keywords: Resource assessment; unconventional resources; natural gas; uncertainty quantification』

Overview of unconventional gas resource assessment in north America
 Existing methodologies
 Description of the USGS methodology
 Potential problems with the USGS methodology
  Use of mainly triangular distributions
  Correlation between input variables
  Concerns with the assumption of perfect correlation in the aggregation from the AU level to the TPS and province level
Improved methodology
Application and results
 Analysis of the Piceance transitional AU
 Analysis of the total Uinta-Piceance province
  Including correlation between input variables
  Changing width of input probability distributions
  Changing shape of input probability distributions
  Changing width and shape of input probability distributions
  Including variable correlation with unbounded probability distributions