Five years ago, Poland set out to follow in America’s footsteps and tap its reserves of shale gas—and much to Warsaw’s woe, explorers have very little to show for their time and effort. Drillers once keen on being first movers in Europe’s undeveloped fracking industry are packing up and going home, and momentum is ebbing. Bloomberg reports:
The highest test flows during the country’s five-year search for unconventional gas were just 30 percent of what’s needed for commercial production, said Pawel Poprawa, a geologist at the AGH University of Science and Technology in Krakow. The number of active shale permits has fallen 43 percent from a high in January 2013 and explorers probably won’t extend all those expiring this year, according to Slawomir Brodzinski, the nation’s deputy environment minister.3Legs Resources Plc, the Isle of Man-based company that was the first foreign explorer to buy a license in the East European nation, said last month it’s leaving after poor results at Poland’s biggest fracking operation in the northeastern Baltic Basin. The “poorly understood” formation may hold more gas than Texas’s Barnett Shale, where commercial output from 2000 helped turn the U.S. into the world’s largest gas producer, according to the U.S. Energy Department.
Poland’s gas imports dwarf its domestic production, and most of those imports are coming from Russia, which reportedly disrupted supplies just last month. Shale could help Warsaw to loosen Gazprom’s grasp, but emulating U.S. success has proven much more difficult than initially thought.For one, Poland, like many other countries around the world playing catch-up, has complicated stratigraphy to deal with.America, by contrast, enjoys a kind of neatly layered “wedding cake” geology. Poland’s shale deposits also lie deeper than those being commercially exploited in the United States, and the firms attempting to tap them lack the technical expertise found across the Atlantic. Add to that a mess of bureaucratic red tape, which has scared away investors, and it’s no wonder that Poland’s shale dreams aren’t being realized.If anything, this drives home the fact that the shale revolution has been a uniquely American phenomenon, a product of a long list of favorable conditions that other nations have been unable to replicate.