Shale gas - appetites grow

Boguslaw Kowalski

These are not only speculations of experts. The American Energy Information Administration (EIA) reported on the possibility of gas production from shale. In its report concerning potential formations for shale gas the EIA discusses the situation of 32 countries, including Poland. It estimates that there are large reserves of shale gas in the country on the Vistula. This estimation has been supported by dynamically developing productions in the USA and Canada, based on the new technology. The technology concerns both gas and oil. The world has begun the shale rush.

Poland has large resources but these are still estimations

5.3 trillion cubic meters - the authors of the American report calculated our resources of shale gas that are immediately available for extracting.. The total reserves of shale gas are to be 22.4 trillion cubic meters and when the mining methods are improved the shale gas production can be bigger. If we calculate that in money we can feel dizzy. If we calculate only the reserves that the immediately available for extracting using the prices of gas Poland pays to the Russian Gazprom we have the astronomical sum - two trillion dollars. The needs of the Polish economy can be covered from this source for a few hundred years. But cooling our emotions we must say that these are only estimates. The authors of the report used the method of analogy. They compared the structure of the shale rocks with the information gathered from the past geological drillings in our territory. The authors estimate that the probability of confirmation of these comparisons is the highest in the district of the Baltic Basin - 40%. But it is far from certainty. New drillings to find potential new formations for shale gas are needed. In Poland numerous companies are interested in such works. Our Ministry of Environment has awarded over 90 concessions, the first ones being in 2007. The entrepreneurs desiring to find new riches in Poland include the well-known oil concerns: Exxon, Chevron and Conoco. The Polish PGNiG has also acquired a concession. The result of drillings will be known in a few years but if they are successful the production of shale gas will begin in the next several years.

USA and Canada are producing…

The hopes of the world to decrease the prices of gas are connected with the successes of the USA. Thanks to the new technologies, allowing effective extracting of the blue resource, its prices have been systematically decreased for several years in America despite the global tendencies. Currently, the American economy pays 150 dollars per cubic meter of gas, i.e., over twice less that Europe pays its deliverers. Very large resources in Canada are ready to be extracted. Concerns from the Republic of South Africa and China are interested to exploit these layers. China realises that a barrier for the dynamic development of its economy will be the lack of sufficiently large and cheap energy materials. Therefore, it involves its powerful capital to have access to the new deposits and on this occasion to have access to the new technology. Including the exploitation of shale fuels in Canada the Chinese companies have already invested ca. 12 billion dollars.
China is interested in both gas and oil. The American engineers claim that by modifying the technologies they can also produce oil from shale. By the way the first experiences in this production were almost 100 years ago in Estonia, which is not so far from our country. It was as early as in 1924 that a power plant burning bituminous shale was opened there. Currently, this small country is satisfying almost all its energy needs from its own reserves. And its engineers, simultaneously with their American colleagues, are working on new solutions, which they sell in the world.

… and Europe is discussing

The new method of shale gas production, using large quantities of water and sand with chemicals, has evoked ecologists' protests. In their opinions it will lead to the contamination of water and the destruction of landscape. The EU authorities take their opinions into account very seriously. The EU Commissioner for Energy, Guenther Oettinger from Germany, stated that shale gas could play at the most a supplementary role to the present supply sources and that its exploitation constituted a threat to environment. The EU has stricter regulations concerning the protection of underground water, exploitation, CO2 emission and consequently, its is not certain whether the US technologies will meet these criteria. An example can be France where the government introduced a ban to grant concessions to examine the productive possibilities of gas and oil from shale until the middle of June. It resulted from the dynamic protest launched by one of the French left-wing eurodeputees. If the shale gas resources in Poland were confirmed they could not be exploited because of the EU environment law and there would be a field of powerful conflict of interests with the EU. The present regulations retard and increase the costs of modernisation of the Polish transport infrastructure. Therefore, we may have a paradoxical situation that the European countries will buy the American shale gas and they could not produce it because of the ecologists' blackmail and inflated regulations as far as the environmental protection is concerned. Such an export exists today. The liquefied shale gas as LNG is being delivered from the USA to European ports. Poland can only benefit from the increase of the value of shale resources in the world energy balance. The political meaning of the deliveries from Russia will diminish and such investments as the Northern Gas Pipeline may become senseless.

"Niedziela" 17/2011

Editor: Tygodnik Katolicki "Niedziela", ul. 3 Maja 12, 42-200 Czestochowa, Polska
Editor-in-chief: Fr Jaroslaw Grabowski • E-mail: