Obama Administration announces new partnership on unconventional natural gas and oil research

On April 13, three federal agencies announced a formal partnership to coordinate and align all research associated with development of our nation’s abundant unconventional natural gas and oil resources.

The partnership exemplifies the cross-government coordination required under President Obama’s executive order released earlier today, which created a new Interagency Working Group to Support Safe and Responsible Development of Unconventional Domestic Natural Gas Resources.

The new partnership will help coordinate current and future research and scientific studies undertaken by the U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of the Interior – better positioning the Obama Administration to ensure that continued expansion of natural gas and oil production happens safely and responsibly as part of an all-of-the-above approach to American energy in which science plays a guiding and critical role.

As the president has made clear, domestic natural gas and oil resources will continue to play a key role in America’s energy future. Already, technological advancements like hydraulic fracturing – innovation supported by public research – have allowed development of previously uneconomic natural gas and oil deposits.

In fact, since 2008, U.S. oil and natural gas production has increased each year. In 2011, U.S. crude oil production reached its highest level in 8 years, increasing by an estimated 110,000 barrels per day over 2010 levels to 5.59 million barrels per day. And U.S. natural gas production grew in 2011 as well – the largest year-over-year volumetric increase in history – easily eclipsing the previous all-time production record set in 1973. Overall, oil imports have been falling since 2005, and oil import dependence declined from 57 percent in 2008 to 45 percent in 2011 – the lowest level since 1995.

As the United States continues to expand domestic natural gas and oil production, it is critical that the public has full confidence that the right safety and environmental protections are in place – guided by the best available science. Leveraging each agency’s core competencies and strengths will enhance efforts to explore the significant new resource development opportunities made possible in recent years by hydraulic fracturing and other new technologies, and meet high-priority challenges in a coordinated and common-sense way.

“Science, research and innovation continue to play a vital role in our efforts to further expand oil and gas production in the United States and make sure it’s done safely and responsibly,” said Department of the Interior Deputy Secretary David J. Hayes. “Improvements in technologies like hydraulic fracturing are responsible for greatly increasing our capacity to develop America’s abundant unconventional resources in recent years. Through a close collaboration across the government that reduces redundancy and streamlines our research, we are positioning the Obama Administration to best meet the critical need of increasing public understanding and public confidence of these critical technologies so that we can continue safe and responsible exploration and production for many decades to come.”