AP
Oil companies increasingly eye natural gas

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Pretty soon, Big Oil will be more like Big Gas.

The major oil companies are increasingly betting their futures on natural gas, with older oil fields producing less crude and newer ones either hard to reach or controlled by unfriendly nations.

They are focusing more than ever on natural gas because it burns cleaner than oil and is gaining traction as a fuel for transportation. The latest move came Tuesday, when Chevron made a $4.3 billion deal to buy up natural gas fields in the Northeast.

Until recently, Big Oil watched the rise of U.S. natural gas from the sidelines, and smaller companies drilled into underground layers of shale. New techniques allowed companies to drill parallel to the ground and hit previously tough-to-reach deposits, helping them tap ever larger bounties of shale gas.

"Production is screaming," said E. Russell Braziel, managing director of BENTEK Energy, which tracks natural gas prices in the U.S.

The U.S. now holds about 3.82 trillion cubic feet of natural gas in storage, about 10 percent more than the average over the past five years. And the industry keeps pumping more out of the ground.

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