Energy resources of the United States

Circular 650

, , and



Estimates are made of United States resources of coal, petroleum liquids, natural gas, uranium, geothermal energy, and oil from oil shale. The estimates, compiled by specialists of the U.S. Geological Survey, are generally made on geologic projections of favorable rocks and on anticipated frequency of the energy resource in the favorable rocks. Accuracy of the estimates probably ranges from 20 to 50 percent for identified-recoverable resources to about an order of magnitude for undiscovered-submarginal resources. The total coal resource base in the United States is estimated to be about 3,200 billion tons, of which 200-390 billion tons can be considered in the category identified and recoverable. More than 70 percent of current production comes from the Appalachian basin where the resource base, better known than for the United States as a whole, is about 330 billion tons, of which 22 billion tons is identified and recoverable. Coals containing less than 1 percent sulfur are the premium coals. These are abundant in the western coal fields, but in the Appalachian basin the resource base for low-sulfur coal is estimated to be only a little more than 100 billion tons, of which 12 billion tons is identified and recoverable. Of the many estimates of petroleum liquids and natural-gas resources, those of the U.S. Geological Survey are the largest because, in general, our estimates include the largest proportion of favorable ground for exploration. We estimate the total resource base for petroleum liquids to be about 2,900 billion barrels, of which 52 billion barrels is identified and recoverable. Of the total resource base, some 600 billion barrels is in Alaska or offshore from Alaska, 1,500 billion barrels is offshore from the United States, and 1,300 billion barrels is onshore in the conterminous United States. Identified-recoverable resources of petroleum liquids corresponding to these geographic units are 11, 6, and 36 billion barrels, respectively. The total natural-gas resource of the United States is estimated to be about 6,600 trillion cubic feet, of which 290 trillion cubic feet is identified and recoverable. In geographic units comparable to those for petroleum liquids, the resource bases are 1,400, 3,400, and 2,900 trillion cubic feet, and the identified-recoverable resources are 31, 40, and 220 trillion cubic feet, respectively. Uranium resources in conventional deposits, where uranium is the major product, are estimated at 1,600,000 tons of U3O8, of which 250,000 tons is identified and recoverable. A potential byproduct resource of more than 7 million tons of U3O8, is estimated for phosphate rock, but none of this resource is recoverable under present economic conditions. The resources of heat in potential geothermal energy sources are poorly known. The total resource base for the United States is certainly greater than 10 22 calories, of which only 2.5 ? 10 18 calories can be considered identified and recoverable at present. Oil shale is estimated to contain 26 trillion barrels of oil. None of this resource is economic at present, but if prices increase moderately, 160-600 billion barrels of this oil could be shifted into the identified-recoverable category.

Additional publication details

Publication type:
Publication Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
Energy resources of the United States
Series title:
Series number:
Year Published:
U.S. Geological Survey
iii, 27 p. :illus. ;26 cm.