This is a short guide where we outline how much natural gas is left in the world.
We look at total numbers, as well as how many years of natural gas supply there might be left.
Summary – How Much Natural Gas Is Left, & When Will We Run Out?
Proven world gross reserves of natural sat at 7,124 trillion cubic feet in 2018
Various estimates indicate that the amount of natural gas we have left will last us anywhere from 40 years to 52 years.
It can depend though on factors such as new recoverable natural gas reserves being confirmed, the future rates of natural gas production and consumption, how long coal and oil reserves take to run out (which can impact how much natural gas is used – especially if we turn to natural gas to create liquid fuel), what we use natural gas for in the future, mining technology improving, and so on
The countries with the largest proven coal reserves are the Russia, Iran, Qatar and the United States
Distinction should be made between the different types of natural gas reserves e.g. total reserves, and reserves that are accessible and economic to mine (recoverable reserves)
The world’s proven gas reserves actually trended up from 1980 through to 2016 according to one set of data (i.e. supply increased)
Many of the same considerations and factors applicable to oil reserves are applicable to natural gas reserves when making estimates and forecasts – read a guide on future oil reserves here to get informed on some of those considerations and factors
How Much Natural Gas Is Left In The World?
As of January 1, 2018, there was an estimated 7,124 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) of total world proved reserves of gross natural gas.
How Much Longer (How Many Years) Will Natural Gas Reserves Last – When Will We Run Out?
[Taking into consideration the current rate of natural gas production and current known natural gas reserves, we have about 52.8 years worth of natural gas reserves left]
… proven … [natural] gas reserves are equivalent to around … 52 years at current production levels
We’ll still have gas and coal left by the time oil runs out in 2052.
But if we increase gas production to fill the energy gap left by oil, then those reserves will only give us an additional eight years, taking us to 2060
Countries With The Largest Proven Natural Gas Reserves
According to wikipedia.org, countries with the top 4 countries with the largest proven natural gas reserves are:
[In that order].
Total Natural Gas Reserves vs Recoverable Natural Gas Reserves
It’s important to distinguish between total natural gas reserves and how much of that is recoverable natural gas reserves.
Recoverable natural gas reserves includes ‘only the natural gas that can be mined with today’s mining technology after considering accessibility constraints and recovery factors’.
Estimating How Much Natural Gas Is Left Can Possess At Least Some Level Of Uncertainty
Estimating exactly how much natural gas is left can be slightly difficult because natural gas is found underground.
Estimates are made based on varying levels/degrees of geologic certainty.
Further to this – new reserves of different fossil fuels can be found which increase the current reserve estimation totals.
Although, these new reserves are usually small.
Additionally, researchers are working on ways to extract the potentially vast amounts of natural gas reserves trapped beneath the ocean in gas hydrates (environmentalscience.org, and renewableresourcescoalition.org)
It’s also worth reading this guide about why we may never run out of certain mined resources.
Is There Hope For The Future? What Will We Do If We Run Out Of Natural Gas?
There’s been new recoverable natural gas reserves discovered in the past, and this trend could very well continue and the estimated reserves left could very well increase again.
To illustrate this point, if you look at this chart from worldometers.info, you’ll see that the world’s proven gas reserves had gone up (apart from one temporary dip) from 1980 through to 2016.
So, there might not be a lot to panic about if this trend continues.
A strong sign that natural gas might be truly running out, or that the remaining natural gas is too expensive or hard to mine – is natural gas prices rising (due to demand and supply).
Separate to natural gas, there’s other sources of energy available like renewable energy sources and alternative energy sources like solar, wind, water, nuclear energy.
Burning The Remaining Natural Gas Reserves, & Potential Impact On Global Warming
Something that is worth noting is that the quantity of natural gas reserves left needs to be put in context with the impact of burning it on greenhouse gas emissions and climate change/global warming.
According to one report:
… we will have to leave between 65 to 80 percent of current known reserves untouched if we are to stand a chance of keeping average global temperature rise below our two-degrees global target