Poland to adopt bill making shale gas push investor friendly-minister

Tue May 14, 2013 8:19am EDT

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* Foreign firms pull-out worries officials

* New laws aimed to ease exploring and extracting shale

* American companies "especially" needed

By Agnieszka Barteczko

KATOWICE, Poland, May 14 (Reuters) - Poland will adopt a bill by the end of June aimed at making its shale gas sector more friendly to wary investors, Polish officials said on Tuesday - reflecting the sector's need for foreign capital and expertise.

The new laws would make it easier for companies to explore and extract unconventional gas, Poland's Environment Minister Marcin Korolec told an energy conference.

The new regime would lighten the many bureaucratic obstacles to exploration, including environmental limitations, and create a state operator to take part in energy consortia.

"I expect the shale gas draft bill to be adopted by the end of June and Parliament should do the same by the end of the year," he told the conference.

Analysts have long said Poland needs to adopt laws that will give the stability and predictability foreign investors need as they compete with local state-controlled firms.

The move follow last week's announcement by Canada Talisman Energy and U.S. major Marathon oil they will leave Poland, worrying officials who see shale gas as a key way to reduce reliance on Russian supplies.

"Foreign capital is incredibly important for the development of shale gas exploration in Poland, as Polish companies do not have the experience and capital needed," Deputy Environment Minister Piotr Wozniak said at the conference, declining to address the two firms' decisions to leave.

"It is especially American companies that Poland has to rely on, as they are the most experienced ones," he added.

The initial optimism among investors has been tempered by an unsettled regulatory landscape, and a downgrade of estimates for the size of potential reserves.

U.S. oil major Exxon pulled out last year, citing poor drilling results.

Poland has issued more than 100 shale gas exploration licences, and some 40 test wells are in operation, though none is expected to start producing gas before 2015.

Foreign permit-holders still active in Poland include Chevron Corp of the United States and Italy's ENI.

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