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Frack Alack
Poland's Shale Struggles Continue

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.

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  • wigwag

    This is a shame. If there is an example of a country that has done nearly everything right since the end of the Cold War its Poland. There is not a single nation in Europe more worthy of respect or American support. Bravo to Poland for having he inclination to frack even if proves to be untenable given current technology. Perhaps future technological innovations will make tracking in Poland more feasible. I hope this happens; if any nation has earned the right to catch a break, Poland is that nation.

    • Bob

      Googling a bit on this question, I learned (I hope accurately) that Congress mandated a low visa rejection rate for a country to qualify for the VWP. Poland’s rejection rate is just under 10%, about three times the mandated threshhold. One site said the overstay rate for Poles in the US is only about 2%, which makes the policy very irrational. My preliminary take is that the policy more reflects large organizational inertia (the US is a very large organization held together with boatloads of red tape) rather than preference for other nations or “dimwitted, pimple-faced U.S. consular officials barely out of diapers”.

      Whatever the reason, I agree with you it’s bad policy.

      • wigwag

        The consular officials who make these decisions are usually the most junior people working at the consulate; very few Rhodes Scholars are applying for these positions. The average time that the official spends evaluating the visa application is barely a couple of minutes. Put yourself in the position of the Poles. They wait on line for what is often many hours, only to have the decision of whether they will be admitted into the U.S. made in the blink of an eye by a youngster who is, in many cases, young enough to be the applicant’s son or daughter (or grandson or granddaughter).

        The rejection rate is so high because basically anyone younger than 30 is turned down automatically for fear that they will work illegally in the United States.

        Poland is one of a tiny number of countries in Europe that is genuinely pro-American. It supports the United States in international forums, it fights besides the United States in America’s wars and it is one of the few nations in Europe that is increasing defense expenditures rather than reducing defense expenditures. It shares a border and a history with Ukraine, yet Ukraine is a irredeemable mess while Poland is a startling success story.

        Hungary is a bastion of revanchism, bigotry and anti-Semitism. Poland, which has a long history of Jew-hatred and gladly assisted the Nazi extermination campaign (the fact that Auschwitz was outside of Cracow was no accident) has totally reversed course and is now a bastion of philosemitism. Both anti-Semitism and philosemitism may be component parts of what Adam Garfinkle calls “Jewcentricity,” but I’ll take “philo” over “anti” any day.

        Yet the Hungarians can go back and forth at will while our nation thanks the Poles for all of their support by denying them the same right.

        Why hasn’t this been fixed? I think its because we suffer from presidency after presidency and congress after congress filled with narcissistic morons.

  • Sibir_RUS

    Europe is not able to turn their back on Russia.
    In 2013, the Russian Gazprom accounted for about 30 per cent of Europe’s gas. The numbers in some European countries is even more telling. Finland depends on Russian supplies 100%, Bulgaria – 85%, Czech Republic – 80%, Slovenia – 63%, Greece – 55%, Poland – 54%, Austria – 52%, Hungary – 49%, Belgium – 43%, Germany – 40%
    Experts predict stable growth of demand for energy resources.
    This should take into account:
    Qatar in the first quarter of the current year has reduced gas deliveries by 6.2% – up to 4,9 billion cubic meters. A similar trend is seen in other world suppliers. Algeria has reduced its deliveries by 2.8% to 9.1 billion cubic meters, Libya – on 0,2% – up to 1.4 billion cubic meters, Nigeria – on 6,5% – up to 0.8 billion cubic meters of gas. Reduced supply and major European suppliers: Norway – by 2.7%, great Britain – by 0.9%, the Netherlands – by 26.4%.
    The only thing that can do the EU to abandon Russian gas supplies, for example – is to move to coal. But it will become an environmental catastrophe.

  • Sibir_RUS

    Shale revolution is not a phenomenon, but a persistent myth.
    There is nothing wrong in the fact that Poland have dependent on Russia for gas supplies.

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