HOUSTON, July 22 (UPI) -- The geopolitical consequences of expanding the production of shale gas deposits in the United States will be "enormous," a research study concluded.
The United States holds some of the richest deposits of natural gas locked in shale formations in the world. The U.S. Department of Energy estimated that there's enough domestic natural gas to last 90 years at current production rates.
Researchers at Rice University in a study said the subsequent Russian share of the natural gas market in Europe could fall from 27 percent in 2009 to 13 percent by 2040. Rising natural gas production in the United States could diminish Iran's influence as well, the report said.
"The geopolitical repercussions of expanding U.S. shale gas production are going to be enormous," Amy Myers Jaffe, one of the report's authors, was quoted by the online Oil and Gas Journal as saying.
The study estimated that shale production in the United States could make up more than half of the total U.S. natural production within the next 20 years.
Critics claim the potential environmental consequences of shale gas production aren't worth the benefits. A recent report in The New York Times sought to cast a shadow over shale gas optimism, though the newspaper's ombudsman later questioned the report.
Energy companies involved in shale gas production say that, when done correctly, the environmental impact of shale production is minimal.