Peak gas is a concept that suggests worldwide production of natural gas will eventually reach a high point, after which is will exhibit an exponential decline. This is due to the fact that worldwide demand for energy has increased, while natural gas is a nonrenewable fossil fuel. The peak theory of fossil fuels was first introduced in the 1950s, and it has been supported by data that has been gathered throughout the years. New stores of natural gas have been found, though the discovery rate peaked around the 1970s. The same theory behind peak gas is more commonly associated with the idea of peak oil.
Natural gas is an important source of energy, and it provides about 25% of the worldwide energy needs each year. Demand continues to increase, and fewer new discoveries are made with each passing decade. It is unknown when the world will reach peak gas, though peak discovery of natural gas was reached in the 1960s or 1970s. New reserves are still being found, though more were discovered during the 1970s than the following three decades combined.
The idea of peak gas is often used in reference to worldwide production, though it can also be applied to individual nations and regions. Many countries, such as Italy, were once net exporters of natural gas, but have since reached their peak production levels. Other countries estimate that they have reached the limit of their production but have not yet become net importers. The Netherlands may have reached peak gas around 2007, though they continued to be net exporters.
In the United States, various individuals and organizations have offered different predictions regarding peak natural gas production. Original estimates suggested that peak production would occur in the 1970s, though additional resource discoveries have resulted in increased production several times. Similar situations have occurred in other countries around the world as new discoveries have led to localized increases in gas production.
It is unknown when worldwide peak gas will occur, and different organizations have provided a variety of possible dates. New discoveries have pushed the probable date back, though the rate of finding new reserves has fallen off. Conservation and advances in renewable energy may also affect the peak production of natural gas in a number of ways. Cheaper renewable energy sources may cause natural gas production to drop off not because of a lack of supply, but due to the presence of less expensive power sources.