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Poland’s shale gas reserves could be much less than initially projected, according to a new study, but even that smaller amount could someday turn the country into a natural-gas exporter and ease European reliance on energy supplies from Russia.

The estimates by the Polish Geological Institute, released Wednesday, were a letdown for the country’s shale-gas boosters, whose hopes had been buoyed by a U.S. government study that said the country was sitting on as much as 300 years of reserves.

On Wednesday the institute said in a study prepared with help from the U.S. Geological Survey that shale gas, combined with conventional reserves, could cover 35 to 65 years of Poland’s demand for natural gas, despite the lower estimates.

Energy diversification has long been an issue of strategic importance for the Polish government, which wants to cut its dependence on imports of oil and gas from Russia, its communist-era oppressor, to power the expanding Polish economy.

Polish officials Wednesday urged further exploration by local and international players to determine the full extent of the country’s recoverable shale gas, which the geology institute said likely amounts to between 346 billion and 768 billion cubic meters.

Poland remains determined “to build alternatives to current gas supply sources,” said Treasury Minister Mikolaj Budzanowski. He said shale-gas supplies were adequate for the country to be “a potential gas exporter” instead of “a client with a weak bargaining position.”

The Central European country uses about 14 billion cubic meters of gas annually, most of which is imported from Russia at what Poland believes to be an above-market price, because the country lacks pipelines and terminal capacity to bring gas in from other suppliers.

Geologists examined 39 archival core samples spanning four decades and estimated shale-gas reserves could be up to 1.9 trillion cubic meters, with the most likely amount set at 346 billion and 768 billion.

“With such a result, we have the third-largest reserves of this natural resource in Europe, after Norway and the Netherlands,” said Piotr Wozniak, a deputy environment minister and the country’s chief geologist. “Now it’s time for making big investments.”

The U.S. Energy Information Administration, which provides analysis for the U.S. Energy Department, had earlier estimated that reserves could reach 5.3 trillion cubic meters.

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