Academic journal article International Issues & Slovak Foreign Policy Affairs

The European Methane Belt

Academic journal article International Issues & Slovak Foreign Policy Affairs

The European Methane Belt

Article excerpt


On the background of European counterpoints regarding unconventional gas, Poland and Ukraine currently stand out as the advance-guard of unconventional gas exploration in continental Europe. In this article an attempt is made to forecast the different scenarios of unconventional gas production in Ukraine and Poland with the aim of anticipating the consequences of these scenarios. Concerning the formation of a unique methane axis of Europe formed by Poland and Ukraine: the actual realization of the optimistic scenario of gas extraction would allow us to say that such an axis could be expanded in future by means of other countries, like Romania and Bulgaria, which have the prospect of new offshore discoveries in the Black Sea. The realization of this scenario could be a factor in significant geopolitical changes in Europe, in particular the reduction of the dependence of vulnerable Central and Eastern European countries on the monopolistic gas suppliers of the East.

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European unconventional gas perspectives

Revolutionary changes in North America's energy market, due to unconventional hydrocarbon production, are drawing the attention of business groups and politicians in Europe to the possibility of using these tested technologies. A replication of the American success in Europe, even on a smaller scale, is connected with the possibility of a reduction in gas prices, the development of certain industries, the creation of additional jobs, etc. Incentives and perspectives are very important for the European economy, which is still suffering from the crisis and continues to lose its competitiveness as compared with other global centers of development - Eastern Asia and North America. In Europe, however there are quite opposed approaches towards unconventional hydrocarbons, caused by existing differences in the energy mixes of countries, the level of dependence on external supplies, the intensity of influence from internal and external political factors, etc. It is obvious howeven that Europe should respond to the shale gas challenge. Industries and ecologists, whose motivation usually differs, are urging the political establishment to react and take certain decisions, which are not always based on the reality of the situation or an adequate understanding of the subject - concerning natural gas from unconventional sources and the only effective production technology of today: hydraulic fracturing.

Preliminary geological estimations allow us to consider the availability of several huge fields with prospective unconventional gas deposits on the territory of continental Europe. The most massive fields are located mainly in Western Europe (Germany and France], and in Central and Eastern Europe [Poland, Slovakia, Ukraine, Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria].

Currently in Europe, unconventional hydrocarbon production has its supporters (including Poland, Great Britain, Ukraine, Romania, and Lithuania], its "neutrals" (represented by Germany, Hungary, Slovakia, Portugal, and Sweden], and its opponents [Bulgaria, France, and the Czech Republic], This quite nominal belonging to this or that group is based on actual permissions or bans on production technology with hydraulic fracturing, and on intentions or plans to explore and extract unconventional gas in the near future.

Against the background of opposing European views regarding unconventional gas, Poland and Ukraine currently stand out as the advance guard of unconventional gas deposits exploration in the continental Europe. It can be assumed that the example of these countries may to a certain extent determine the attitude of other countries in Europe towards this issue. The judgment of the French Academy of Sciences illustrates this. On January 14, 2013 it presented its report "La recherche scientifique face aux défis de l'énergie," which emphasizes the need to start research on unconventional gas production immediately. …

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