Bangkok Post

Many tempted, only a few resisting the lure of shale


PARIS: The United States and Canada are the only countries so far to produce shale oil and gas in commercial quantities, but more and more countries are opening up to exploratio­n, leaving resisting nations isolated.

Critics say extracting the precious resource is hugely harmful for the environmen­t, while supporters point to the energy boom it can help create. Countries 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. Some wells are being tested for potential production that could begin next year.

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.

British energy firm Cuadrilla Resources had to suspend its first drilling in northeast England in 2011 after small tremors were recorded. But in December 2012, the government authorised it to start again with tighter monitoring measures.

Denmark has handed out two exploratio­n licences, 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 licences.

Argentina is seen as one of the countries with the greatest potential in the sector. It is seeking to tap shale gas and oil and the state-owned energy company has drilled extensivel­y in the Vaca Muerta range. A co-operation agreement with US group Chevron Corp was signed in July and a deal with China National Offshore Oil Corp (CNOOC) is in the pipeline.

Russia may be sitting on one of the world’s largest reserves of shale oil and they are attracting interest from foreign oil companies. Royal Dutch Shell Plc signed a deal with a Gazprom OAO 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. Those thinking about it

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

In Germany the Merkel government proposed in February the authorisat­ion of production of shale gas subject to strict controls. But opposition within Chancellor Angela Merkel’s own party resulted in the issue being shelved until after elections.

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

After a moratorium imposed because of environmen­tal concerns, South Africa now envisages starting exploratio­n after April 2014 elections. Those 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 environmen­tal 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.

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