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Meeting tomorrow's energy needs

FEATURE: The scramble for tomorrow's energy sources is happening today, says Mark Robinson

The exploitation of the world's untapped energy reserves is gradually gaining momentum due to technological developments, and upward price pressure on conventional sources. The percentage of energy that can be extracted from established unconventional resources – such as Canada's Athabasca Oil Sands – is constantly being revised upwards, while surging energy demand from the world's emerging economies provides impetus for long-term investment.

Unit energy costs have risen as an increasing percentage of energy resources is diverted to meet burgeoning demand in the Far East. The prospect of future energy deficits has spurred global energy companies like Royal Dutch Shell and Exxon Mobil to invest heavily in technologies that could profoundly alter the global energy map ().


Untapped oil resources ranging between 22bn and 256bn barrels, according to the US Geological Survey.


Argentina's state energy company YPF has joined forces with Brazil's Vale and Spain's Repsol to develop the country's huge shale gas deposits in Patagonia.

Athabasca Oil Sands

The largest reservoir of crude bitumen in the world with as much as 1.7 trillion barrels of heavy oil – 10 per cent currently recoverable.


Santos and BG plan to ship 16.3m tonnes of LNG annually, which is derived from coal-bed methane deposits located in Queensland's Bowen and Surat Basins.

Bakken Formation

Higher-grade shale oil deposits. 4.3-21bn barrels currently recoverable, although total resource could be as high as 320bn barrels.

Barnett Shale

A proven resource of 2.5 tcf of natural gas, but the actual resource could contain as much as 30 tcf.


China's "technically recoverable" shale gas deposits at 1,275 tcf are over ten times higher than its existing proved gas deposits.

East Africa

Countries up the coast of East Africa have natural gas in abundance, together with the possibility of massive offshore oil deposits. BG, Afren, Cove Energy and Anadarko are all active in the region.

Indonesian Coal Bed Methane

Huge deposits within the Barito, Kutei, Central & South Sumatra basins contribute to a minimum mean resource of 453 tcf of gas.

Marcellus Shale

In April 2009, the US Dept. of Energy estimated the Marcellus to contain 262 tcf of recoverable shale gas.


Some analysts believe that Namibia's offshore oil & gas industry could rival that of Brazil's in size and scope, which has attracted UK operators like Chariot Oil & Gas and Tower Resources.

Orinoco Oil Sands

Petroleos de Venezuela has estimated the producible reserves of Orinoco at 235bn.


Between 770 and 2,990 tcf of gas could be contained within the Arctic region, with the most prospective area likely to be in Russia's South Kara Sea.


Tullow, Shell and France SAS have commenced drilling operations on an offshore prospect Guyana that could form part of a much larger prospect covering the border with Surinam.