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Practical Optimism: Poland Rebuilds Pipelines to Handle Shale Gas

This is an abridged version. The full text is avaiable to subscribers to The Russian Energy weekly.

The Poles are so sure of their huge reserves of shale gas that they are launching a major program of expanding the national pipeline grid. Gazprom, a principal owner of transit lines, may have a cause to be worried, unless environmentalists put an end to this hunt for new Polish gas.

In the Focus

The Oil and Gas Watch Europe website published the results of a poll. The question was ‘Which natural gas solution will prove to be the most viable for Europe?’ Nabucco turned out to be the most popular one with 26% of votes, with Polish shale gas closely following it with 25%. LNG merited 16%; rehabbed infrastructure in Ukraine; 14%, the Nord Stream, 11%; and the South Stream pipeline lagged behind with just 10% of votes.

The results keep changing but the leading solutions reflect sympathies of the Europeans. Hopes associated with shale gas production in Poland are particularly characteristic. Many people in the EU believe that it could become a pillar of the union’s energy security and stability of energy supply.

Western media occasionally refers to Poland as the new Qatar or new Turkmenistan, and some Poles are already dividing the fruits of the proposed development. Opposition leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski, for example, suggested in May that gas producers ought to be obliged to leave at least 40% of their revenues in the state budget.

If then plan is a success, benefits will be numerous. A recent estimate of the US EIA says that Europe probably hosts 17.5 tcm of shale gas, and Poland accounts for nearly one-third of this volume, 5.3 tcm. IHS CERA is even more generous: it claims that half of European shale gas reserves are in the Polish soil. If Poland keeps its gas consumption at the current level of 14 bcm a year, including 5 bcm of indigenous production, it may become a net major exporter of gas.

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