US shale gas revolution throws down the gauntlet to Europe
Munich: The United States is enjoying an energy bonanza thanks to shale gas, making it a magnet for industry, reducing import dependence and challenging Europe as it battles to dig itself out of recession, energy officials say. Panelists at a weekend security conference in Munich warned Europe must develop a strategy on how to tap its own resources in order to keep energy costs competitive, or risk seeing power-intensive industries locate elsewhere. "The shale gas and oil boom is already underway. As Europe continues to debate it, North America is reaping the advantages," said Jorma Ollila, Chairman of Royal Dutch Shell.
Just a week ago Shell signed a $10 billion shale gas deal with Ukraine - the biggest contract yet in Europe - which could help Ukraine ease its reliance on Russian gas imports. Ukraine is said to have Europe's third-largest shale gas reserves at 42 trillion cubic feet (1.2 trillion cubic meters), according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Its reserves are dwarfed by those of France however, estimated to be Europe's largest at 180 trillion cubic feet.
France has banned the procedure, known as fracking which is used to extract shale gas and which involves pumping vast quantities of water and chemicals at high pressure through drill holes to prop open shale rocks. Environmentalists fear it could increase seismic risks and pollute drinking water. U.S. officials question this and say that thanks to the higher proportion of gas use the United States has had its lowest carbon dioxide emissions in 20 years.
"Observing this from across the Atlantic it is really quite remarkable that there should be a ban or a go-slow on this development in Europe, really without any facts," said Daniel Yergin, Vice-Chairman of IHS Cambridge Energy Research. Fracking is used to produce a third of U.S. natural gas he said, showing the environmental impact can be managed.