Unconventional gas resources, such as shale gas, may prove crucial to Europe as it strives to become self-sufficient and reduce dependence on gas imports from Russia and the Middle East.
A recent report from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) estimates that Europe possesses greater than expected shale gas reserves which if developed have the potential to re-shape the continent’s energy dynamic. The EIA estimates nearly 624 trillion cubic feet (tcf) of technically recoverable shale gas reserves exist in Europe, particularly in parts of Germany and Poland.
Shale gas resources has peaked the interest of many investors eager to begin drilling operations in Europe. Some of the world’s largest oil and gas majors have already acquired land and leasing rights, such as Chevron, which will initiate its first drilling well in Poland, and ExxonMobil, which has already completed six shale wells in north-west Germany.
The European Centre for Energy and Resource Security (EUCERS) says, “In theory… Europe’s unconventional gas resources might be able to cover European gas demand for at least another 60 years.”
The highly effective, yet controversial, drilling practice known as hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” presents both an opportunity and an obstacle for the fledgling industry.
Fracking has revolutionized the natural gas industry in the United States, helping to shift the U.S. from a net importer to a net exporter of gas, but has been criticized as unsafe. Indeed, fears of water contamination from fracking has led France to recently ban the practice.
Greater population density in Europe than the U.S. means that “environmental concerns must be addressed” first and foremost as the industry develops, says EUCERS.