by Jim Washer, London, EI, May 16, 2011
Shale gas is beginning to take off in Europe, as a subject of debate and as a plausible new energy supply option. France’s National Assembly last week voted to ban the controversial technique of hydraulic fracturing in shale oil and gas exploration, a move which threatens to strangle the country's shale gas sector at birth. But elsewhere in the region, interest in shale exploration is growing, with Total farming into two concessions in Poland operated by Exxon Mobil, which is also assessing unconventional gas prospects in neighboring Ukraine. Europe can’t match North America’s shale gas resource potential, nor its attractive framework for onshore gas development. But one factor which typically complicates energy development elsewhere -- politics -- may encourage shale development in Europe. Countries like Poland and Ukraine both depend heavily – and not always happily -- on Russia for gas. Developing more indigenous gas resources would improve these countries’ security of supply, as well as strengthening their hand in gas supply and transit negotiations with Moscow.
(Poland's technically recoverable resources of shale gas are estimated to be 187 trillion cubic feet/tcf or c. 5.3 trillion cubic meters/tcm, the highest in Europe, followed by France with 180 tcf or c. 5.1 tcm---please see my post/table "Estimated Shale Gas Technically Recoverable Resources for Select Basins in 32 Countries -- EIA," here. Also, please see my post "World Shale Gas Resources Outside US Assessed," here. For exploration of shale gas in Poland, please also see my post "Marathon, Nexen to Jointly Explore Shale in Poland," here. In theory, unconventional gas resources "might be able to cover European gas demand for another 60 years," said a recent study on unconventional gas – EUCERS Strategy Paper No 1, p. 30. -- D.R.)