Fracking in Europe

Over the past few years, fracking has been extensively used in several European nations, including Denmark, Lithuania, Romania and the United Kingdom. Poland however, has seen more shale exploration than any other European country. Poland's shale-gas reserves are estimated to hold about 5,295 billion cubic metres (bcm) of technically recoverable gas, the most shale gas of any country in Europe. If all of this gas could be extracted, it would be equivalent to 325 years of Poland's current gas consumption. Despite this potential however, many of the world's major gas companies have abandoned projects in Poland, Denmark and Romania after exploration proved disappointing.

Despite several years of exploratory drilling there are no commercial shale-gas wells in Europe at present. Tests of the continent's shale potential have been limited, and results to date have generally yielded little shale gas reserves. It also remains highly uncertain how much gas would be recoverable using current technologies, and even more difficult to forecast how much could be profitably extracted. Moreover, geologists know relatively little about the potential of shale-rock formations in Europe because there has been limited onshore drilling compared with the United States.

Fracking has also been banned in many countries including in France, Germany, Bulgaria, and the Netherlands, further limiting fracking exploration at a European level. Moreover, even in countries where fracking is permitted, fears remain over safety of the practice. For example, in the UK where fracking is permitted, two small earthquakes near Blackpool in northern England in 2011 associated with fracking exploration, led the government to place a year-long moratorium on further fracking (Inman, 2016). Separately, within the UK, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, as devolved governments, have all issued bans on fracking exploration. Owing to these issues, fracking in Europe is therefore a considerable way off from commercial exploitation.

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