No US-style shale gas boom for Europe, says energy investor

By RTCC Staff

Europe is unlikely to experience a shale gas boom similar to that witnessed in the US, according to a UK-based energy investor.

A surge in drilling for shale gas has allowed the US to cut its foreign imports of fossil fuels and lower prices for consumers.

A shale gas rig in the US. The number of operating shale gas drills in the States topped 1600 in August 2008. (Source: Flickr/Nicholas_T)

“I wouldn’t completely write-off shale gas development in Europe, but certainly the scale and speed at which it happens will not be like in the US,” said Chris Rowland, an associate at UK-based investment firm Ecofin, which handles $1.9bn in assets.

“It’s a good fuel for reducing emissions but not a good fuel for decarbonizing,” he told Reuters.

There have been claims of large finds of shale gas in Poland, France and the UK but so far regulation has restricted exploration to test wells and trials.

EU Energy Commissioner Günter Oettinger said in July that he wished Europe would accept more risks with its exploration of unconventional fossil fuels and offshore drilling.

It has been speculated that news of large shale gas finds are being used as leverage in wholesale gas price negotiations with Russia, a key supplier for the EU.

Opposition to shale gas drilling centres on the “fracking” process which uses pressurised fluids to release gas trapped within rock formations. There are fears about the scale of methane leaks from drill sites. There are also fears over the potential pollution of water resources.

Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas and could make the emissions associated with shale gas larger than estimated.

The US recently lowered its emissions from the power sector pointing to the replacement of coal with gas, which burns cleaner, as the main reason.

Yesterday, US presidential nominee Mitt Romney released his energy policy, which includes accelerating shale gas development further and expanding offshore oil drilling.

Related stories:

Gas and climate change: Can we drill our way out of four degrees?

EDF: Cut the leaks or gas has no part to play in fighting climate change

Earthquakes lead to calls for US fracking shutdown

Read more on: Energy | | | | |