It is not necessary for quite a bit of natural gas production. It helps a lot, though, and has been used successfully to enhance production for 60 years. In the case of the natural gas trapped in tight (low porosity, low permeability) shales that have received a lot of attention in the past year or two, it is pretty much necessary to produce the gas economically. Hydraulic fracturing can improve production by anywhere from a few percent to as much as 30%, maybe more.
It is important to note that there is some controversy in the oil world about these new natural gas plays – some say that they will produce at high rates for many years (like 15 or more), others, equally knowledgeable, think they will deplete quickly and will decline in production rates in less than 5 years. Which is correct is not known, but it makes a big difference in estimating natural gas reserves.
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