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Undersecretary of state says exploration is in a growth mode.
Beata Stelmach, the undersecretary of state in Poland's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, is emphatic about her country's attitude toward developing shale-gas resources.
"Ladies and gentlemen, the Polish government fully supports activities in the shale-gas sector. Unconventional gas may provide us with a unique opportunity to successfully achieve several policy goals in the areas of energy, the economy and the environment," she said on Oct. 19 at a symposium at Rice University's James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy in Houston.
Research conducted by the Baker Institute indicates that Poland, Sweden, Austria and Germany are sitting atop roughly 220 trillion cubic feet of shale-gas reserves. Poland houses about 55% of the shale resources that are expected to be developed in Europe.
Stelmach pointed out that Poland's shale-gas sector is in a growth mode as more than 100 exploratory permits have been granted so far. "Almost 30 companies, including American majors such as ExxonMobil, Chevron, ConocoPhillips and Marathon, are drilling in Poland," she said.
"We think that shale gas could facilitate completion of an efficient and stable internal gas market both in Poland and in wider Europe. The presence of many new players in the shale-gas sector will strengthen market fundamentals and improve the competition and transparency of the market, secure more stable gas supplies and stimulate development of gas infrastructure in Europe to accommodate additional supplies," Stelmach said.
The first horizontally fractured well outside North America was drilled in Poland, she said, adding that "although we are still at a very early stage of exploration, preliminary estimates indicate a huge potential for Poland’s shale-gas deposits."
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, Poland might have about 5.3 trillion cubic meters (187 trillion cubic feet) of technically recoverable shale gas. From Poland's perspective, this means that at its current consumption level, the country's gas needs could be satisfied for more than 300 years, according to Stelmach.
"In economic terms, shale gas will benefit both Poland's and Europe's economies with job creation, new investments and the in-flow of capital. We hope to follow America's example where oil and natural gas companies contributed more than $470 billion to the U.S. economy in 2010. In a time of economic downturn (2008-09), shale-gas production created an additional 255,000 jobs in the U.S.," she said.
"We also think that the development of shale resources would help Poland strengthen its leadership in technological innovations and economic competitiveness. And last but not least, in geopolitical terms, shale gas can potentially redefine Poland's and Europe’s energy relationships with other countries. Development of indigenous gas reserves would lessen the reliance upon external energy importers and reduce dependence on politically unstable and unpredictable producers."
Stelmach said that from an environmental perspective, shale gas can play a significant role in the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions in her country. By reducing the use of coal and oil and instead tapping into gas, carbon dioxide emissions in Poland could be about 45% lower if coal is eliminated and 30% lower if shale gas supersedes oil, she said.
In conclusion, Stelmach said, "We hope that shale gas will further strengthen an overall American presence in Europe that has been crucial for maintaining Europe's geostrategic position for ensuring a balance of powers. The growing energy cooperation between Poland and the United States could, and should, be the driving force of trans-Atlantic dialogue.
"Some companies and experts talk about Poland potentially being a new gas exporter, and who would have seen that coming 10 or even five years ago?"
Contact the author, Mike Madere, at email@example.com.