Chevron has acquired exploration rights for four shale gas concessions in southeastern Poland, the U.S. oil giant said in a recent SEC filing, joining other international companies in the hunt for unconventional gas reserves in Europe in the hopes of duplicating the production boom in the U.S.
The need in Europe to reduce dependence on imported gas, especially from Russia, is spurring efforts to tap shale gas and coal-bed methane using new technologies that have proven successful in U.S. production.
ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips and Marathon Oil also have recently acquired exploration rights in Poland. Chevron won five-year exploration licenses in the Zwierzyniec, Kransnik, Frampol, and Grabowiec concessions. The company has a 100 percent-owned and operated interest in these four concessions to explore for shale gas.
ExxonMobil is looking at Germany and Poland for its first test efforts at finding shale gas in Europe, a top executive told news media at an industry conference in Amsterdam last week. Techniques like horizontal drilling make it possible to explore even in densely populated areas, Exxon’s Richard Guerrant said.
Other areas attracting interest of the oil majors include southern Sweden, Hungary and other parts of Eastern Europe.
However, Guerrant cautioned that such production is only in its early stages in Europe and it will take some time to ramp up to anything like U.S. levels. Drilling equipment is harder to come by in Europe, analysts note, and European governments are more likely to scrutinize possible environmental harm from techniques like hydraulic fracturing. Groups in the U.S. have charged that such methods pollute the groundwater.
But authorities are concerned by projections that 70% of Europe’s natural gas will be imported by 2030. The experience in the U.S. has indicated that tapping unconventional reserves can dramatically ease the supply situation.
Exxon in December agreed to acquire XTO Energy, a major producer of shale gas in the U.S., in a deal valued at $41 billion. Chesapeake Energy, another major player in shale gas, has been selling off stakes in its U.S. production sites to European companies like BP, Total and Statoil.
By. Darrell Delamaide