In 2013, Gazprom’s share of the European gas market jumped to 30 percent, a significant increase over its 25.6 percent share in 2012. And the company expects to maintain its dominance of the European market for years to come. At the London meeting, Gazprom’s head of strategy, Dmitry Lyugai, declared, “there will be no shale miracle in Europe.”
Lyugai may be right. Any effort to dramatically increase gas drilling and production in Europe will take a decade or more. Even if European countries wanted to emulate America’s success in extracting oil and gas from shale deposits, Europe doesn’t have enough drilling rigs, nor does it have enough trained personnel and service-related infrastructure.
That said, shale is the most abundant form of sedimentary rock on the planet. Poland, France, and Norway all have significant shale resources. The British Geological Survey has estimated
that the Bowland Basin, in the central part of Britain, may contain more than 1,000 trillion cubic feet of gas. At the U.K.’s current rate of gas consumption, that volume of energy could last for more than 300 years.
Despite the enormous promise of shale gas, France has banned the use of hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”), the high-pressure pumping process that is used to crack shale and other dense rock formations. Without fracking, the production of oil and natural gas from shale is simply not possible. Poland is encouraging the development of its shale deposits and has signed agreements with Chevron and Royal Dutch Shell to explore for gas. But progress has been slow. The same is true in Britain, where environmental groups continue to oppose the development of the country’s shale resources.
In short, there are no quick fixes that can alleviate Russia’s hold on the European gas market. In January a Polish friend of mine, a journalist who lives in Warsaw, told me, “We are praying for shale gas in Poland.”
If Europeans are serious about reducing Russia’s power, they will need to do more than pray. They are going to have to drill.
— Robert Bryce is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute. In May he will publish his fifth book, Smaller Faster Lighter Denser Cheaper: How Innovation Keeps Proving the Catastrophists Wrong.