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Formation of Natural Gas and Current Reserves

Gas forms in a similar way to petroleum and the two are therefore often found together. It is mainly formed from plant and animal matter which sinks to the ocean floor, becomes embedded in mud and is covered then by further sedimentation.

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Process takes millions of years

Under the exclusion of air, the organic material remains preserved as organic slime from which the host rock of petroleum and natural gas forms. As it is progressively covered with more and more rock material, the host rock sinks into deeper layers and is there slowly heated by the natural heat from the earth's interior. When certain threshold values for temperature and time are exceeded, the organic components which have remained preserved are converted in several complex processes into petroleum and natural gas. Natural gas generally takes many million years to form. Most of the gas available today was formed 15 to 600 million years ago.

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Proved gas reserves will last until the 70s of the 21st century
Proven natural gas reserves are currently estimated to be around 191.0 trillion m 3. Reserves are considered to be proved recoverable reserves if they can be recovered economically with state-of-the-art technology under current conditions. Proved natural gas reserves would cover gas supplies until well into the 70s of the 21st century if production were to stay constant. Russia and the Middle East have the largest proved natural gas reserves. Together they have approx. 70% of all reserves. Europe only has a small proportion of proved natural gas reserves at 3%. "Probable" and "possible" reserves The other reserve categories are probable and possible reserves which differ as regards the degree of uncertainty about their size and their extractability. "Conventional" and "unconventional" resources In contrast to this, quantities of natural gas and petroleum which cannot be recovered economically at present are called resources. These are again subdivided into conventional and unconventional resources. The conventional resources are proven quantities which are estimated at well over 200 trillion cubic metres. Unconventional resources are mainly tight gas, coal seam gases, gas hydrates and aquifer gases. These deposits can, practically speaking, not be recovered with conventional production methods. They are available in volumes many times that of conventional resources.

Differences between conventional and unconventional gas


Conventional gas Accumulations in medium to highly porous reservoir with sufficient permeability to allow gas to flow to producing well Pressure regime tends to move gas towards producing well (i.e. natural flow) Unconventional gas Deposits of natural gas found in relatively impermeable rock formations - tight sands, shale and coal beds To get resources out of the ground, artificial pathways (fractures) have to be created Key technologies are horizontal drilling and modern fracturing techniques Consequences Need to understand geology better Need for much higher number of extraction points

Types of unconventional gas

Tight gas

Located in conventional pore spaces in sandstone Low vertical permeability because of laminated structures No significant gas flow without fractures, natural or induced Shale gas

Located in shales in source rock Very low permeability, almost no drainage radius, very heterogeneous Must be fractured Coalbed methane

Located in coal seams, often near surface Natural Fractures often filled with water and gas Key challenge is removal of water

Dependence on gas imports increasing

Germany's natural gas deposits are depleting and will lead to a decline in production in just a few years. As Europe's reserves fall and its demand rises, Europe's dependence


on natural gas imports will continue to increase. Huge investments in upstream projects are necessary to secure gas supplies in the long term, also gas from our own sources.