March 29, 2012 / 2:25 PM / in 6 years

UPDATE 1-Poland's PGNiG talks with foreign shale partner

* PGNiG had shunned foreign partners

* Marks change in strategy for state-controlled firm

* Also in shale talks with three state-controlled firms

By Maciej Onoszko

March 29 (Reuters) - Polish gas monopoly PGNiG said on Thursday it was in talks with a foreign partner to help develop shale gas, marking a change in the state-controlled firm’s approach.

The company’s Deputy Chief Executive Marek Karabula declined to provide specific details but said a foreign partner would bring both expertise and capital to future shale exploration and development.

PGNiG had shunned foreign parters and had not shared its geological data.

“We are in contact with one foreign partner,” Karabula told reporters on the sidelines of a shale gas conference.

PGNiG had discussions last year with another foreign firm but talks collapsed after both sides agreed lack of geological data made it too early to strike a deal, he added.

While a government study last week showed Poland’s shale gas reserves are about one-tenth the size of previous estimates, the European Union nation still has enough to meet domestic demand for decades.

Foreign firms including Exxon Mobil, Chevron and Marathon have put down stakes in Poland.

Both Poland and the European Union are keen to find ways to diversify imports away from Russia, which provides around a half of Poland’s gas consumption and some 25 percent of EU deliveries.

Karabula’s comments came as Poland’s Treasury Minister Mikolaj Budzanowski, the driving force behind Poland’s shale gas push, said on Thursday that Polish companies should seek partners both inside and outside the country’s borders.

In January, PGNiG signed a letter of intent with the country’s top utilities PGE and Tauron, as well as copper miner KGHM, on co-operation in shale gas exploration.

“The aim of this enterprise is to build a gas mine with 12 production wells,” Karabula said. “We are talking about concrete locations.”

Earlier this week, PGNiG launched fresh shale gas drilling in the southeast of the country.

The state-owned group holds 15 of 109 shale gas exploration licences awarded by Poland in the past few years. Some foreign companies involved in shale gas exploration in Poland have complained that state-controlled PGNiG has been reluctant to share geological documentation.

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