EU opposition to shale fracking is crumbling

The cost of gas in Europe (from the North Sea or from Russia) is about 3 times higher than in the US (from natural gas onshore and offshore and from the fracking of shale). The high gas price in Germany has led to a return to coal in a big way. Yet Europe has substantial reserves of shale which could give both oil and gas. Gas and energy prices are leading to the EU now increasingly trailing the US in competivity. Jobs are being lost. And it is the instant, knee-jerk reactions of the Greens in Europe, who have set themselves against fracking, which has slowed the deployment of shale gas. This mindless opposition is unsustainable and is beginning to crumble.

The UK has already declared its intentions to now pursue fracking in a big way. Other countries will have no option but to follow suit. The moratoriums against fracking in a number of countries (France, Germany …) will have to be withdrawn. Even Russia – which has a vested interest in keeping the price of natural gas high – is beginning to move on fracking of their vast reserves.

Europe has to frack. But politicians need a “decent”, politically viable interval to make their inevitable U-turns and give up their unsustainable positions. Fracking is becoming politically acceptable if not yet politically correct.

OilPrice

EU Readies for Shale Gas Breakthrough

  • Ukrainian company Nadra Ukrayny, along with co-sponsor International Gas Union, hosts a summit May 20-22 to discuss maximizing the benefits of shale exploration in the European community. Organizers say the event will have a pan-European focus, with strategy sessions focused on the shale potential from Eastern Europe to Great Britain.
  • Polish shale ambitions, meanwhile, were stymied in part by a decision from Italian energy company Eni to pull out of the country, the third company to do so since 2012. Eni said the geology was too complex to exploit now, leaving behind an estimated 187 trillion cubic feet of shale gas reserves. That too should pique future interest once technology evolves. Chevron remains one of the few players still in the Polish shale.
  • Rainer Seele, chairman of German energy company Wintershall, told delegates at a Berlin energy conference it was time for an honest debate about shale exploration. Late last year, German leaders agreed to keep a moratorium in place on hydraulic fracturing. Several European states have expressed reservations about the controversial drilling practice dubbed fracking. For Seele, it’s time for “an informed debate and legal clarity” because now, he said, the conversation is at a standstill. In 2012, a report found there may be as much as 100 trillion cubic feet of technically recoverable gas locked on German shale.
  • Spain too entered the fray last week when the central government filed a challenge against a decision to ban fracking in Cantabria, a region near the coast of the Bay of Biscay.  Regional leaders voted unanimously to ban fracking out of environmental concerns last year, but with Spain importing more than 70 percent of its natural gas needs, the 70 years’ worth of gas in Cantabria is too rich to ignore.
  • France and Bulgaria are among other European states with fracking bans in place. Last week, the European Commission embraced a series of recommendations meant to ensure appropriate safeguards are in place for members that choose to go ahead with shale exploration. The EU said the recommendations were part of a policy framework meant to guide regional energy policy through 2030. EU Environment Commissioner Janez Potocnik said shale gas is “raising hopes” in Europe. With energy companies clamoring to get in line, Europe may be on the cusp of a shale breakthrough.
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