The United States is the world’s largest producer and consumer of natural gas. It produces more than 600 billion cubic meters (bcm) of natural gas annually, but it still needed to import almost 100 bcm in 2011. Beginning in 2005, domestic natural gas production began steadily increasing, and according to projections by the U.S. Energy Information Administration, production will increase by an average of about 1 percent per year through 2035. However, these projections are likely too conservative, having been calculated using production numbers from 2010 and before and thus not having fully taken into account a significant increase in relatively new methods of natural gas extraction from shale formations.
From 2006 to 2011, shale gas production increased by about 50 percent in the United States; by 2010, it accounted for one-quarter of all U.S. natural gas production. Shale gas extraction has been aided by new technologies that have helped exploration and production by lowering operating costs and allowing access to previously untapped formations. These include methods such as hydraulic fracturing, where oil or natural gas deposits are extracted from fractures in underground rock formations, and horizontal drilling, which increases the surface area of a given well in contact with the shale formation. Hydraulic fracturing demands a significant amount of freshwater — approximately 4.5 million gallons per attempt — which the United States has in abundance.