WARSAW Dec 12 (Reuters) - U.S. energy major Chevron will join forces on shale gas exploration in south-eastern Poland with local state-controlled gas firm PGNiG to lower costs and speed up the work, PGNiG said in a statement on Thursday.
The agreement is the first example of cooperation between a Polish firm and a foreign investor in the shale gas sector, move keenly awaited by international players.
U.S. or Canadian firms would bring expertise in shale gas exploration, while local firms would contribute access to exploration licences and can help smooth relations with Polish authorities.
"The initiative is part of PGNiG's new policy of openness to opportunities that might come from working with other companies interested in Polish shale gas deposits," PGNiG said in a statement.
The companies said that if the cooperation is successful, they may set up a joint company in which both will hold a 50 percent stakes. A joint venture would bring together four licences in south-eastern Poland: two from PGNiG, and two from Chevron.
Binding agreements are expected to be signed in 2014.
Poland, which imports most of the gas it consumes from Russia, had high hopes for its own shale gas reserves. But red tape and poor drilling results have forced some global players to pull out. They had also complained that Polish companies were reluctant to cooperate.
"Chevron remains committed to our exploration program in Poland," the U.S. company said on Thursday.