LONDON, March 14 Ukraine's crisis underscores
the importance of Europe's drive for greater energy security and
could buoy development of shale gas as the continent looks to
cut back on Russian supplies.
As tensions between Moscow and Kiev spark concerns over a
possible cut in Russian gas to Europe via Ukraine, European
Union officials this week identified shale gas drilling as one
of the "indigenous sources of energy" that can help reduce such
Significantly, EU politicians left shale out of tougher
rules on exposing the environmental impact of oil and
Poland also introduced an investor-friendly shale gas bill
aimed at cutting red tape and regulatory hurdles.
"I expect that as a result of the Ukraine crisis, the EU is
going to look much more seriously at ways of diversifying away
from Russian energy sources," said John Lough, associate fellow
at London think-tank Chatham House.
"Shale gas will be one of the options to be explored."
Britain and Poland have for years pressed for shale gas
development to help lessen their dependence on imported fossil
Development there, and in countries such as France and
Bulgaria, has faced opposition, however, from citizens and
groups concerned about the potential environmental impact.
Supporters include energy-intensive industries who fear that
cheaper energy available to U.S. companies from the shale gas
boom there will render Europe's manufacturers uncompetitive.
"Given the absolute necessity for Europe to diversify its
sources of supply of gas and to find solutions to the huge
energy price differential with its main competitors, we see no
alternative but to proceed as rapidly as possible with shale gas
exploitation as part of the energy mix in Europe," said Gordon
Moffat, director general of steel industry group Eurofer.
Such pleas could gain support as the argument shifts to one
over energy security, as Brussels grapples with the fact the EU
opposes Russia's seizure of Ukrainian territory yet remains
dependent on Russian gas.
Should Russia's seizure of Crimea include a takeover
offshore gasfields, Ukraine's best remaining sources of new
energy will be its two large, untapped shale finds.
Ukraine has Europe's third-largest shale gas reserves at 42
trillion cubic feet (1.2 trillion cubic metres), according to
the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
Kiev has signed a deal with Chevron to develop the
Olesska block in western Ukraine and one with Royal Dutch Shell
to develop its Yuzivska field in the east.
"Unrest in any part of the world related to oil and gas
production and transport argues in favour of long-term diversity
of supply," said the International Association of Oil and Gas
Thus far, Europe's hoped-for shale boom has struggled, with
estimates of Poland's reserves slashed, public unease holding up
British plans, and outright bans in France and Bulgaria.