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Shale gas is burning in Poland after gas firm PGNiG SA torched a flare on one of its rigs. Poland wants to become one of the major players in the European gas market within the next two decades, with the state-controlled natural gas firm starting commercial production in 2014.


The shale gas flare at PGNiG’s rig in northern Poland


PGNiG has begun technical production of natural gas from its shale gas concession in Lubocino, a village in northern Poland, and plans successive drilling as the company hopes to tap the country’s potentially vast unconventional hydrocarbon reserves.

Outside the U.S., Poland is the first country where companies are making a serious effort to develop shale gas, which Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk has called the country’s “great chance,” as it could reduce Poland’s dependence on Russia for gas, create tens of thousands of jobs and fill state coffers.

PGNiG now plans to drill horizontally and conduct further fracturing procedures on this concession, which may be completed in 10-20 months and will enable commercial extraction.

“If the work goes according to plan, trial production could be possible in the second half of 2013, with commercial production starting in 2014,” PGNiG said in a statement Sunday.

Poland has recoverable shale gas resources of 5.3 trillion cubic meters, equivalent to more than 300 years of the country’s annual natural gas consumption, the U.S. Department of Energy reported previously.

Poland’s ruling party, which faces a parliamentary election Oct. 9, said this month in a new four-year program that it would put expected shale gas revenue in a demographic fund ensuring future pensions.

Prime Minister Tusk Sunday said he was “moderately optimistic” commercial shale gas production would begin in 2014, which would by 2035 free it from its overreliance on Russia’s OAO Gazprom for natural gas supplies and allow it to be a major player in Europe’s gas.

“After years of dependence on our large neighbor, today we can say that my generation will see the day when we will be independent in the area of natural gas and we will be setting terms,” Mr. Tusk said.

Poland’s domestically produced shale gas should be competitively priced compared to gas imported from Russia, a government official said earlier.

Exploration in Poland won’t pose a danger to the environment, he added.

Environmentalists in several countries want restrictions on hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.” The technology involves injecting water, sand and chemicals into porous shale rock to release the gas trapped inside the rock. Critics say fracking contaminates ground water.

The Wall Street Journal, 19 September 2011