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John Daly

John Daly

Dr. John C.K. Daly is the chief analyst for Oilprice.com, Dr. Daly received his Ph.D. in 1986 from the School of Slavonic and East European…

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Poland Gives Green Light to Massive Fracking Efforts

Poland Gives Green Light to Massive Fracking Efforts

There is perhaps no more controversial energy source after nuclear than “hydraulic fracturing,” or “fracking,” of subterranean shale deposits containing pockets of natural gas.

While the process can liberate previously unusable sources of natural gas, political, environmental and scientific concerns have risen along with production, as evidence mounts that fracking is responsible for everything from polluting subterranean aquifers to causing regional earthquakes.

But no matter – during his 24 January State of the Union address, U.S. President Barack Obama wholeheartedly embraced hydraulic fracturing without even mentioning it, telling his audience, “We have a supply of natural gas that can last America nearly 100 years. And my administration will take every possible action to safely develop this energy.”

Tree-hugging environmentalists and seismologists be damned – according to Obama, the full exploitation of these resources will “support more than 600,000 jobs by the end of the decade,” no small consideration in an election year.

Across the Atlantic, European Union members, particularly in Eastern Europe, are considering the benefits of fracking, though coming to differing conclusions.

On 18 January 166 members of Bulgaria’s Narodno Sabranie (National Assembly) 240 parliamentarians voted to impose an indefinite ban on shale gas exploration and extraction in Bulgaria using hydraulic fracturing or other similar technology. Six National Assembly members voted in favor of the practice, along with three abstentions.

Poland has taken a different tack, noting that thanks to fracking of natural gas shale deposits, in 2009 the United States became the world's largest gas producer, overtaking Russia and driving down prices.

The day after the contentious Bulgarian vote Polish Treasury Minister Mikolaj Budzanowski told reporters that Polish companies with permits to explore for shale gas in the country must intensify drilling to start production of the fuel by 2014 or 2015, with Polish companies each drilling 12 wells and performing 12 hydraulic fracking operations annually.

The reason for such enthusiasm?

Simple, said Budzanowski - Poland’s shale-derived gas could be as much as 50 percent cheaper than the Gazprom natural gas Poland now receives from the 2,607 mile-long Yamal-Europe natural gas pipeline, which currently costs Warsaw more than $500 per 1,000 cubic meters (tcm) for West Siberian output.

Seeking to cut the expensive Russian natural gas umbilical cord, Poland has high expectations for its projected indigenous production shale natural gas, as it currently depends on Russian Gazprom supplies for nearly two-thirds of its annual gas consumption of 14 bcm, estimating its domestic reserves of conventional natural gas at some 100 bcm, which would only meet domestic needs for slightly more than seven years.

In contrast, the U.S. Energy Information Administration has estimated Poland could have the biggest shale natural gas reserves in Europe, amounting to some 5.3 tcm.

No wonder Warsaw is interested.

And, letting no grass grow under their feet, the Polish government has already granted more than 100 exploration permits to companies, including U.S. energy giants Chevron and Exxon Mobil.

Injecting a bit of nationalist pride however, Budzanowski reiterated an earlier appeal for state-owned utilities to participate in developing shale natural gas extraction. Leaving reporters in no doubt as to the importance that the Polish government placed on the rapid ramping up of shale natural gas production Budzanowski added, "I will expect the Treasury-owned companies to present plans to drill as many wells as possible within the next two years and this is the most important task from the perspective of (the nation’s) shale gas policy."

Poland’s love affair with fracking began last year. On 18 September 2011 Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk told an audience in Lubocin, northern Poland, where shale natural gas exploration had begun, "Being a moderate optimist, the commercial exploitation of shale gas will begin in 2014" before adding that Poland could achieve "gas security" by 2035. Referring to the larger geo-strategic implications of such policies Tusk added, "After years of dependence on our large neighbor (Russia), today we can say that my generation will see the day when we will be independent in the area of natural gas and we will be setting terms" before insisting that he had been "assured that well conducted exploration and production would not pose a danger to the environment."


Accordingly, whatever the ultimate fate of fracking in the U.S. and cautious European states like Bulgaria as additional environmental and scientific studies about the practice are conducted, Poland seems for better or worse to have firmly embraced the practice for the foreseeable future. One can only hope that it is a judgment call that they will not soon have cause to regret in what in what Foreign Affairs Minister Rados?aw Sikorski has called “the gold rush of the 21st century.”

Coincidently, on 11 January Waldemar Tyl of the Warsaw Appeals Prosecutor's Office announced that seven people, including government officials, have been charged with corruption during the granting of licenses for shale gas exploration, adding that bribes of tens of thousands of dollars apparently changed hands over the second half of 2011 alone.

Surely a coincidence, like those earthquakes and aquifer pollutants. Nothing to see here, move along.

By. John C.K. Daly of Oilprice.com

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  • Artur on January 27 2012 said:
    Surely a coincidence (...) Nothing to see here, move along
    --- dear author, are you suggesting here, that the Polish government has got a hidden agenda, intending to benefit from future bribes?
    If so, then please have more trust in its moral standards or at least refrain from voicing such insinuations publicly. With all due respect, Poland is not Russia...
  • Thomas Hill on January 31 2012 said:
    The author is a bio-fuels guy. Shale plays lower the price of energy. Not good for bio-fuels' profit margins. There is no scientific evidence that hydraulic fracturing contaminates surface water or causes earthquakes. The greenies hope that repeating this loud enough will make people believe it is so. The reality is that natural gas is one of the cheapest, cleanest energy sources in the planet, and is the bridge to the future.

    In the US, oil is near $100/bbl - half the price of biofuels. Equivalent price of natural gas is $15/bbl. The only way to stop shale gas is to make people afraid. Emotional rather than rational.
  • dunce on February 01 2012 said:
    The most controversial types of energy are wind and solar because they are the costliest to produce. No sane person pays 5 to 10 times as much for a commodity like a kilowatt of electricity unless he is forced to. Most customers do not know how much they are paying for these two because it is hidden in their utility bills.
  • Thomas Zychowski on February 24 2012 said:
    It will be good for the rich while the poor get poisoned. Well at least they will get free natural gas in their drinking water.

    Why is water lighting on fire?
    There have been reports of people living near fracking facilities being able to set their tap water on fire. Some have seen this as evidence that the waste water from the natural gas wells has not been adequately treated and contaminants have been allowed to pollute the water supply. The industry and some environmental groups have said that what is catching fire in these instances is naturally occurring methane gas that has dissolved in well water and is not harmful or related to gas extraction.

  • Paul Brady on March 11 2012 said:
    Some of these comments are totally ridiculous.Saying out loud,in a public forum that there is no scientific proof that fracking does major,irreversible damage is insulting....do u people have no clue what's going on. Fracking is happening at a pace that defies logic.It is in its experimental phase yet they drill wells like they have years and years of a safe track record....and that is hardly the case

    Maybe your ideas of contamination and mine are different.When I see proof that 30 head of cattle died after 16000 gallons of the secret brine got loose,I think we have a case for contamination...my guess is that you people that say such foolish things just have not educated yourselfs.You just dont know.My example was one of so many...literally 1000's of people just like you and me,who's property values have tanked and that suffer mysterious nose bleeds while dealing with a rotten smell to the point their kids wont go outside to play .That is commonplace everywhere deep shale,horizontal well drilling is done.That is enough for me right there but like I said,maybe you people don't see that as contamination.I do

    We are talking deep shale,horizontal drilling here....not the fracking that has been done for 60 years or whatever number they tell us...I'm talking about the deep shale,horizontal well...the technique that is going to save us if you believe the industry.This is a new animal.This kind of drilling is basically 7 to 10 years old,created by Haliburton in 2005 I think...give or take.We are seeing first hand how long it takes to wipe out a huge water shed because the Delaware River is in big trouble...so think about it...this river supplies the east coast with 9% of its drinking water and this trustworthy industry has it nearly used up in 10 years??? How bad is this fracking if it can do so much damage in such a short time?? No way at this rate we could do this for 60 years...they would be drilling in your front yard and playgrounds in 60 years.Use your heads people...Anybody out there really think they have been doing it 60 years and only just know we started having problems?? People just now started being concerned?? The industry just now is telling people about horizontal fracking No way..this is brand new.The 60 year comment they tell us is bunk

    It's also pretty insulting to be labeled when you stand up and say something such as this..."So you people think you can go 13,000 feet straight down and then go horizontal for another 5000 feet,and then you blow undisclosed chemicals down at 10,000 psi into no mans land and all is good"....they tell you with 100% certainty to that question that its safe...and when large number of private wells get over-run with heavy gases they say " no way...that gas is a natural occurence.How can they know what really happens?? Where is the research showing this is safe?? Sorry but when your track record is that poor and your playing around with peoples lives I would say there is cause for alarm

    How much proof do you need to see?? It must be a totally different view on what is acceptable or not.One stream in Pennsylvania being wiped out for miles would be a red light for me...Cabot oil wiping out drinking water for Pennsylvania residents might have been another.

    Gas people want you to just believe what they say but how do you overlook the fact that they dumped millions of gallons of wastewater into rivers...it's true that lax regs early on allowed it but knowing what they were dumping yet still choose to do it...Wow!!! Think about that.How do you do that?? For real...how does somebody do that is a freshwater river?? This is water we are talking about.

    Call me a tree hugger if you must but i think a line has been crossed here...who do these prople think they are??? They are pushy,arogant people that show little respect for a communities concerns.And we are supposed to assume they know what they are doing based on what? The years of studies? Lets see those...They will make me feel better.How about the studies that show that after they crack this shale that is supposed to be protecting our water from the earths natural ingredients,there is ZERO chance of gas migrating into drinking water.

    If you have really involved yourself with the truths and lies of deep shale horizontal fracking you know...if you haven't you need too.No excuse for ignorance.

    Encana just drilled 2 horizontal frack wells close to my house in what is called the Collingwood-Utica shale...like wolves in the night.In and out.I could talk about the shady practices of Encana for a long while but its getting late.

    I guess we have to believe them when they say their pipes and concrete will protect our water.We are supposed to overlook all the obvious and proclaim everyone that has had problems as a wacko...even as we see video of rigs dumping brine in rivers we should believe they have our best interest.Im sorry but I'm not built that way.

    Get Involved...Get Educated

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