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
TEXT SIZE - +

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

Algerians Vote in Presidential Election

There were few media reports of protests and clashes around the country, but so far no significant violence More

Sharks More Evolved than Previously Thought

The discovery could “profoundly affect our understanding of evolutionary history” More

Pakistan Military Asked to Protect Polio Workers

Request comes as authorities say a Taliban ban on vaccinations in 2012 and deadly attacks on anti-polio teams have prevented thousands of children from getting inoculated More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
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.
Google Buys Drone Companyi
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X
George Putic
April 15, 2014
In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ray Bonneville Sings the Blues and More on New CD

Singer/songwriter Ray Bonneville has released a new CD called “Easy Gone” with music that reflects his musical and personal journey from French-speaking Canada to his current home in Austin,Texas. The eclectic artist’s fan base extends from Texas to various parts of North America and Europe. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin.
Video

Video Millions Labor in Pakistan's Informal Economy

The World Bank says that in Pakistan, roughly 70 percent work in the so-called informal sector, a part of the economy that is unregulated and untaxed. VOA's Sharon Behn reports from Islamabad on how the informal sector impact's the Pakistani economy.
Video

Video Passover Celebrates Liberation from Bondage

Jewish people around the world are celebrating Passover, a commemoration of their liberation from slavery in Egypt more than 3,300 years ago. According to scripture, God helped the Jews, led by Moses, escape bondage in Egypt and cross the Red Sea into the desert. Zlatica Hoke reports that the story of the Jewish Exodus resonates with other people trying to escape slave-like conditions.
Video

Video Police Pursue Hate Crime Charges Against Kansas Shooting Suspect

Prosecutors are sifting through the evidence in the wake of Sunday’s shootings in a suburb of Kansas City, Missouri that left three people dead. A suspect in the shootings taken into custody is a white supremacist. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, he was well-known to law enforcement agencies and human rights groups alike.
Video

Video In Eastern Ukraine, Pro-unity Activists Emerge from Shadows

Amid the pro-Russian uprisings in eastern Ukraine, there is a large body of activists who support Ukrainian unity and reject Russian intervention. Their activities have remained largely underground, but they are preparing to take on their pro-Moscow opponents, as Henry Ridgwell reports from the eastern city of Donetsk.
Video

Video Basket Maker’s Skills Have World Reach

A prestigious craft show in the U.S. capital offers one-of-a-kind creations by more than 120 artists working in a variety of media. As VOA’s Julie Taboh reports from Washington, one artist lucky enough to be selected says sharing her skills with women overseas is just as significant.
Video

Video UN Report Urges Speedier Action to Avoid Climate Disaster

A new United Nations report says the world must switch from fossil fuels to cleaner energy sources to control the effects of climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released the report (Sunday) following a meeting of scientists and government representatives in Berlin. The comprehensive review follows two recent IPCC reports that detail the certainty of climate change, its impacts and in this most recent report what to do about it. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble has the details.
AppleAndroid