Chesapeake Energy Rig Site

Photo credit: Chesapeake Energy Corporation. 

Range Resources Corp. (NYSE:RRC) recently announced that its proved natural gas reserves are up 26% to a record high of 8.2 trillion cubic feet equivalent, or Tcfe. Proved reserves are those that an energy company can produce with reasonable certainty given current technology and prices. Basically, Range Resources' investors can feel fairly confident that the company will eventually produce that energy.

So, how much gas are we talking about?
While some of Range Resources' reserves include oil and natural gas liquids, for simplicity's sake let's assume those reserves are all natural gas. At 8.2 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, Range Resources could supply the energy needs of 8.2 million households for 15 years. Basically, Range Resources alone can supply the energy needs of a city the size of New York City for the next 15 years.

While Range Resources has a lot of natural gas, it is not alone. Cabot Oil & Gas Corporation (NYSE:COG) was sitting on 3.8 Tcfe of proved natural gas reserves as of the end of 2012. That's enough energy to power Los Angeles for 15 years. This is thanks to the fact that an average Marcellus Shale gas well for Cabot Oil & Gas is estimated to produce 14 billion cubic feet of natural gas in its lifetime, which is enough to supply the energy needs of 140,000 households for one year. Even better, the average well from Cabot Oil & Gas has nearly tripled the amount of gas it will produce over its lifetime over the past four years as the company is getting better at pulling more gas out of the Marcellus Shale.

Those numbers, however, are dwarfed by America's number two natural gas producer Chesapeake Energy Corporation (NYSE:CHK). The company had 15.7 Tcfe of proved reserves as of the end of 2012, though with higher gas prices its proved reserves would increase to 19.6 Tcfe. To put that number into context -- again for simplicity assuming 100% of the reserves are natural gas -- Chesapeake Energy alone could supply all of natural gas needs of the entire state of New York for 15 years. Bottom line, these companies are sitting on a mammoth amount of energy. 

But wait, there's more!
Proved reserves are only those that an energy company can produce with reasonable certainty given today's prices and technology. Both tend to evolve rapidly, which is why natural gas companies also give investors a peek at what's to come by providing them with reserve totals that include unproved resource potential. These are energy reserves that could probably one day be produced. For Range Resources, that number now stands at 85 Tcfe, with an estimated 55 Tcf of those resources being natural gas as opposed to oil and liquids. That's enough natural gas so that Range Resources alone could supply America's natural gas needs for more than two years.

Overall, American natural gas companies are believed to be sitting on 2,205 Tcf of proved natural gas reserves. Those proved reserves alone are enough to supply our needs for the next 92 years. However, that number could be just scratching the surface as more of the unproved resource potential at Range Resources, Chesapeake Energy, and Cabot Oil & Gas becomes proved reserves. The unproved resource potential at Range Resources alone is nearly 10 times its proved reserves. That's a lot of potential for a company that's already moved 6.4 Tcfe of unproved resource potential to proved reserves in just the past four years. 

Investor takeaway
Energy companies are finding more oil and gas than we ever dreamed possible. As technology and prices continue to evolve, we could eventually recover even greater quantities of oil and gas. That is why it is really an exciting time to be investing in America's energy boom.


Matt DiLallo has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Range Resources. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.