However, with the worldwide attention the problems with deepwater oil production in the Gulf of Mexico is receiving, the potential for finding and producing clean-burning natural gas, onshore, is drawing increasingly greater attention. The demand is there. The technology to find and produce this gas exists. It is the other problems which need to be overcome. Many countries in Europe could use an economic boost right now.
Does Europe Have Unconventional Gas?
It provides about half of the U.S. domestic
From a geological viewpoint, you could extract unconventional gas in Europe, according to Don Gautier, from the U.S. Geological Service. But that’s not the only thing that matters. Unconventional gas fields, particularly those tapping so-called shale gas, are very large and require the development of hundreds of wells.
A field in northern Texas called Barnett Shale has about 8,000 wells covering an area roughly comparable to Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg combined, Mr. Gautier says. “You can’t look at these wells as one well at a time, you have to look at thousands as a development plan,” says Mr. Gautier.
That is almost impossible for Europe, given high population density, regulatory difficulties of getting permits to drill over large areas that sometimes cross borders, and likely opposition from environmentalists and affected residents.
A new technology of digging horizontal wells — drilling vertically drill and then pushing out parallel to the ground — might offer some leeway.
Of course, all of this begs the main question: How much unconventional gas does Europe have and where are the main concentrations?
The country which promises most is Poland, where the
“Shale gas is the gold rush of the 21st century,” she says. However, “it is too early to answer all the questions.”
Update: Perhaps by the time the first gas emerges, Bronislaw Komorowski, Poland’s likely next president, will have figured out that you don’t dig unconventional gas out of the ground like brown coal.