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Europe Must Forget Fantasies about Repeating the US Shale Boom

Robin Meige, the director of strategy at the European Commission’s DG Environment, put a bit of a downer on Europe’s plan to use hydraulic fracturing to experience a shale boom and drive gas prices down, when he explained that conditions in Europe were a little different.

Europe’s energy prices are double those in the US, and leaders are turning to unconventional sources of fossil fuel as a means to increase supply to the market, and hopefully force prices down.

Geological and geographical differences in Europe compared to the US, along with a higher population density, and lack of natural gas infrastructure in many places, mean that, according to the IEA, production costs for unconventional gas extraction techniques in Europe will be twice the price than in the US.

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Miege explained that the “effects of a possible future domestic shale gas production on energy prices in the EU still need to be ascertained,” and any decrease would “probably be much less than was initially foreseen.”

Shale gas supporters in the UK still firmly believe that fracking holds their energy salvation and will cause energy bills to fall, and that “significant exploitation of British shale gas across the continent could reduce our exposure to hydrocarbon price volatility on the world markets.  That could contribute to the stabilisation of British energy costs – good for homes and for businesses – at the very least,” as stated by MP Christopher Pincher.

However Miege said that “in a most optimistic case, European shale gas can only compensate for declines in domestic conventional gas, it won’t make Europe self-sufficient by itself. Further exploration would be needed to determine the level of reserves. That is met with public opposition in some countries, so we find ourselves in a catch-22 situation.”

By. Joao Peixe of Oilprice.com


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  • Reffracktion on June 20 2013 said:
    "the rest of the EU see shale gas as presenting a golden opportunity " - evidence please.

    "creasingly desperate green case"

    Dream on Nick. But tell us - why do you insist on polarising this debate in such a childish way. The economic argument that suggests shale gas to be an unsustainable business has nothing to do with "green" issues. Can you not see that?
  • Nick Grealy on June 18 2013 said:
    The headline states as immutable fact what is actually only Miege's opinion. The rest of the EU: Economy, Climate, Industry and most importantly of all DG Energy and the Council of Ministers themselves, see shale gas as presenting a golden opportunity and are pressing member states to explore the resource.
    Only after an assessment of how much Europe has, will those on the environmental side have an opportunity to propose their views on the way forward.
    Dismissing the impact of European shale gas before we even know how much of the resource base geologists describe as broadly similar to that in the US, can be accessed, serves to reinforce the increasingly desperate green case for their own prospects - not that of the natural gas industry.

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