Many countries ready to take leap into shale

AFP-JIJI

The U.S. and Canada are the only countries so far to produce shale oil and gas in commercial quantities, but other countries are opening up to exploration, leaving resisting nations isolated.

Starting exploration

Poland is one of the leaders in Europe on shale gas. Around 15 international groups are prospecting and have drilled several dozen test wells, although results are below industry expectations.

In Britain, the government supports the exploration of shale gas and drilling of a test well in the countryside of Sussex, southeast England, has begun. But it has become the focus of a national campaign against the practice of hydraulic fracturing, a controversial extraction method.

Denmark has handed out two exploration licenses, but the drilling that should have begun this year will no doubt only take place in 2014 to make time for environmental studies.

Ukraine signed a contract in January with Shell.

Spain and Romania have also handed out exploration licenses.

Argentina is seeking to tap shale gas and oil and the state-owned energy company has drilled extensively in the Vaca Muerta range.

Russia may be sitting on one of the world’s largest reserves of shale oil and they are attracting interest from foreign oil companies. Shell signed a deal with a Gazprom subsidiary in April to drill for shale oil in the Khanty-Mansiysk area of central Siberia.

China is encouraging exploratory drilling, but results so far have not lived up to expectations.

Australia has just started prospecting.

Canada has already begun producing shale oil in Alberta. Quebec, which has imposed a moratorium on drilling for shale gas, has left the door open to the extraction of shale oil in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, where exploratory drilling is due to start soon.

Thinking about it

Lithuania is on the verge of signing an exploration accord with Chevron that has been months in the making.

In Germany, the Merkel government proposed in February the authorization of production of shale gas subject to strict controls. But opposition within Chancellor Angela Merkel’s own party has shelved the issue.

A major producer of natural gas, Algeria is also thought to have significant reserves of shale gas and oil. Recent legislation has authorized exploration for them.

After a moratorium imposed because of environmental concerns, South Africa is now eyeing kicking off exploratory drilling after elections next April.

Resisting

France banned fracking in 2011, closing the door to drilling for shale oil or gas on its territory. The ban was confirmed last year by the new Socialist government on the grounds that the ecological consequences are still unknown.

Bulgaria and the Czech Republic both announced moratoriums last year.

The Netherlands has issued two exploration permits but has blocked them from being used pending further study on the environmental impact.