News / Europe

Shale Gas in Poland Sparks Hopes of Wealth, Energy Security

A well is seen at test drilling site Markowola-1 near Kozienice, central Poland, where Poland's gas monopoly PGNiG hopes to find large amounts of shale gas, July 9, 2010
A well is seen at test drilling site Markowola-1 near Kozienice, central Poland, where Poland's gas monopoly PGNiG hopes to find large amounts of shale gas, July 9, 2010

The rush for shale gas in Poland is attracting some of the world’s biggest energy companies, giving the country hopes of energy security and strengthening ties with the United States.  

Recent finds in northern Poland appear to confirm what experts have suspected for years - that Poland has Europe’s largest reserves of shale gas.  The news promises to encourage what has become a feeding frenzy of major gas companies and Polish hopes of energy independence from Russia.

Shale gas is natural gas trapped in shale rock.  In April, a report by the U.S. Energy Information Administration said Poland could have the largest and most accessible shale gas reserves on the continent.  But up to now, no one could be sure Poland had any gas at all.

Recently-drilled wells indicate the gas is there, says Pawel Poprawa of the Polish Geological Institute.  But, he adds, it is still impossible to tell whether or not it will ever be extracted.

“A couple of these wells altogether seem to confirm the concept," he said.  "Yes, we think there is gas in the formation.  However, we need to figure out if we are able to get it to the surface, and if we do, then it is a question of if it will be commercial.”

Poprawa says it will be several years before anyone knows exactly how much gas Poland has, and at least a decade before large-scale production can begin.  But in the mean time, exploration concessions have been granted to some of the biggest energy companies in the world.

“We have on our market real majors, the biggest companies globally," he said.  "We have here Exxon, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Total - this is kind of unique, really.  This place a couple of years ago was empty.  Now everybody from the world comes here to make their exploration.”

Many of these companies are American, which has sparked the interest of U.S. policy makers.  On his recent visit to Warsaw, U.S. President Barack Obama said the United States is eager to cooperate with Poland in producing shale gas.

“Shale gas is an important opportunity," the president said.  "We believe that there is the capacity technologically to extract that gas in a way that is entirely safe, and what we want to do is to be able to share our expertise and technology with Poland in a fully transparent and accountable way.”

Agata Hinc, of the Warsaw-based research organization Demos Europa, explains that collaborating on shale gas could also lead to closer political ties between the United States and Poland.

“For American companies it means money," she said. "But it also means stable international cooperation on important issues that will last longer than two months.”

But when it comes to energy, Poland’s main geopolitical concern lies to the east.  The country has long been dependent on gas from Russia, and Hinc says that for many Poles, independence from their former communist rulers is a major concern.

“Energy security has meant for a very long time, and for some still means, independence from Russian gas here in Poland," she said.  "This is a very big political issue.  I would not say the younger generation thinks about it that much, but certainly the older generations and our policy makers want to ensure that we are totally independent from our big neighbor”

Shale gas has become controversial in recent years.  Environmentalists claim that during the process of hydraulic extraction - known as “fracking” - gas and other contaminants from the process can seep into the ground water, damaging the environment and posing a health risk.  In the United States, New York State has imposed a moratorium on fracking, and France has forbidden any new exploration.

Spokesman Jacek Winiarski of the Warsaw branch of Greenpeace says companies in Poland need to take the environmental impact into account.

“We know what are the American experiences with drilling and extracting shale gas," he said.  "It causes water pollution, animal diseases, and other environmental pollution.  We perceive gas as a temporary transition fuel between coal and renewables, so we are not against gas, but gas extracted in a safe way.”

But Hinc explains Poland’s priorities tend to be different from those in the West, and that for now, environmental concerns are likely to take a back seat when faced with the prospect of energy independence.

“In the richest countries in Europe, green groups are very strong because people want to live in a clean environment, which is not the case in Poland, at least not yet," she said.  "As for now, cheap electricity and energy security are the most important issues.”

Fracking may begin later this summer, and for now, the size of Poland’s shale gas reserves can only be guessed at.  But with 120 new wells planned for the coming years, it appears the eyes of the world will be on Poland for a long time.

You May Like

Guatemala Mudslide Death Toll Rises to 86

Death toll is expected to continue to rise as emergency crews dig through tons of earth for an estimated 350 people still missing More

Debris Found in Search for Missing Ship

Objects located Sunday have not yet been confirmed to be from the 240 meter container ship, El Faro, which disappeared in the eye of Hurricane Joaquin, according to US Coast Guard More

Survivor: Gunman Spared 'Lucky One' to Give Police Message

Law enforcement official says a manifesto of several pages was recovered; contents not revealed More

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europei
Luis Ramirez
October 02, 2015 4:45 PM
European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video First Self-Driving Truck Debuts on European Highways

The first automated semi-trailer truck started its maiden voyage Friday, Oct. 2, on a European highway. The Daimler truck called 'Actros' is the first potentially mass-produced truck whose driver will be required only to monitor the situation, similar to the role of an airline captain while the plane is in autopilot mode. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Migrant Influx Costs Europe, But Economy Could Benefit

The influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants is testing Europe’s ability to respond – especially in the poorer Balkan states. But some analysts argue that Europe will benefit by welcoming the huge numbers of young people – many of them well educated and willing to work. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

Video New Fabric Helps Fight Dust-Related Allergies

Many people around the world suffer from dust-related allergies, caused mainly by tiny mites that live in bed linen. Polish scientists report they have successfully tested a fabric that is impenetrable to the microscopic creatures. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video Burkina Faso's Economy Deeply Affected by Political Turmoil

Political turmoil in Burkina Faso over the past year has taken a toll on the economy. The transitional government is reporting nearly $70 million in losses in the ten days that followed a short-lived coup by members of the presidential guard earlier this month. The crisis shut businesses and workers went on strike. With elections on the horizon, Emilie Iob reports on what a return to political stability can do for the country's economic recovery.

Video Fleeing Violence, Some Syrians Find Refuge in Irbil

As Syrians continue to flee their country’s unrest to seek new lives in safer places, VOA Persian Service reporter Shepol Abbassi visited Irbil, where a number Syrians have taken refuge. During the religious holidy of Eid al-Adha, the city largely shut down, as temperatures soared. Amy Katz narrates his report.

Video Nigeria’s Wecyclers Work for Reusable Future in Lagos

The streets and lagoons of Africa's largest city - Lagos, Nigeria - are often clogged with trash, almost none of which gets recycled. One company is trying to change that. Chris Stein reports for VOA from Lagos.

Video Sketch Artist Helps Catch Criminals, Gives a Face to Deceased

Police often face the problem of trying to find a crime suspect based on general descriptions that could fit hundreds of people in the vicinity of the crime. In these cases, an artist can use information from witnesses to sketch a likeness that police can show the public via newspapers and television. But, as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, such sketches can also help bring back faces of the dead.

Video Thailand Set to Build China-like Internet Firewall

Thai authorities are planning to tighten control over the Internet, creating a single international access point so they can better monitor content. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok on what is being called Thailand’s own "Great Firewall."

Video Croatian Town’s War History Evokes Empathy for Migrants

As thousands of Afghanistan, Iraqi and Syrian migrants pass through Croatia, locals are reminded of their own experiences with war and refugees in the 1990s. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from the town of Vukovar, where wartime scars still are visible today.

Video Long Drought Affecting California’s Sequoias

California is suffering under a historic four-year drought and scientists say even the state's famed sequoia trees are feeling the pain. The National Park Service has started detailed research to see how it can help the oldest living things on earth survive. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs