Poland's Quest for Shale Gas and Energy Independence: An Examination of Domestic and International Hurdles

By Pigg, Ryan S. | Houston Journal of International Law, Summer 2013 | Go to article overview

Poland's Quest for Shale Gas and Energy Independence: An Examination of Domestic and International Hurdles


Pigg, Ryan S., Houston Journal of International Law


I.   INTRODUCTION  II.  OVERVIEW OF SHALE GAS DEVELOPMENT,      TECHNOLOGY, AND EUROPEAN DEVELOPMENT ABROAD.      A. Hydraulic Fracturing      B. European Natural Gas Production and Shortage      C. Poland's Shale Gas Initiatives  III. ECONOMIC AND ENVIRONMENTAL CONCERNS      SURROUNDING POLAND SHALE GAS DEVELOPMENT      A. Economic Feasibility--Justifying the Lack of Data         Concerning Production Capabilities      B. Environmental Concerns: An evaluation of present         environmental implications of hydraulic         fracturing and European complaints  IV.  SETTING THE STAGE FOR POTENTIAL DISASTER THE      EUROPEAN UNION'S ENERGY GOALS AND PLANS      COMPARED TO THE ULTIMATE AND SWEEPING PLAN      DEVELOPED BY THE POLAND PRESIDENCY      A. The short, medium and long term priorities of the         European Energy Strategy and the current         sentiments of the European Council, Council of the         European Union, the European Commission, and         The European Parliament      B. Poland state law compared to EU regulations      C. Current Events regarding EU Shale Gas         Regulation  V.   CONCLUSION 

I. INTRODUCTION

Two years ago, shale gas discovery in Poland sparked the beginning of efforts by multinational corporations to exploit perhaps one of the largest organically rich shales in Europe--natural gas quantities capable of allowing the whole region of Eastern Europe energy independence. (1) Companies that have already invested in this potential energy have included Chevron and Exxon Mobil. (2) The only thing standing between investors and exploration are gas permits and a growing European public opinion about the environmental threats hydraulic fracturing potentially creates. (3)

The extent of the contested gas reserves in Europe, and specifically in Poland, is largely unknown. (4) A report published by Advanced Resources International found three primary basins in Poland where the gas will likely be targeted. (5) These basins, the Baltic in the north, the Lublin in the south, and the Podlasie in the east are a part of the Lower Silurian-Ordovician shale. (6) All three of these regions display favorable characteristics for profitable natural gas extraction. (7) The report estimates that these reserves contain 710 tcf (trillion cubic feet) of unrisked shale gas, with a risked recoverable source of 100 tcf of that total amount. (8) While these reserves contain far less than the reserves found in America or Russia, the Lower Silurian shale still contains about six times Europe's entire conventional reserves. (9) Considering the fact that Poland could change its importer status to that of an exporter for the region, both the government and industry are anxious to take hold of this great opportunity for the energy sector. (10)

While over 100 leases have been granted, (11) European consumers are conscious of the chemicals used in the "fracking" process and their effects on ground water. (12) These concerns will likely hamper developers, including the largest companies such as the ones discussed previously, in the extraction and sale of natural gas from Poland. (13) Similar environmental concerns have been raised in America. (14) Chesapeake Energy, one of the largest shale gas firms in the world, recently ceased operations in New York State after similar outcries were raised there. (15) European consumers are already showing to be less tolerant about hydraulic fracturing than Americans, despite the industry telling them that the process is safe. (16)

These concerns are not local to Poland's constituency, in fact, other countries, including France, Germany, and Bulgaria, have all taken a firm position against hydraulic fracturing. (17) France even went so far as to pass a moratorium in the entire country, which bans the use of hydraulic fracturing because of its potential environmental damage. (18) While other countries have not gone to that extent, there have been signs indicating members of the European Union will seek to ban hydraulic fracturing throughout Europe via a stringent environmental regulation. …

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