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Kent State Forum Brings Global Perspective To Fracking

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A forum at Kent State University this week brought a more global perspective to natural gas drilling. In the United States, the shale boom that’s been sweeping several states is mostly hailed as an economic boon and a path to energy independence. But shale development is regarded differently in much of Europe. Ideastream’s Michelle Kanu has more.

Thursday, February 21, 2013 at 6:20 pm

Like in the United States, public opinion about hydraulic fracturing is largely divided in Europe.

Several countries, including France, the Netherlands and Bulgaria, have banned the process due to environmental concerns. Germany is on the verge of enacting a ban too.

But a few others, like the United Kingdom, Turkey and Poland, are actively exploiting the resource.

Journalist Dimiter Kenarov has spent the last few years covering shale drilling in Europe, and has honed in on Poland for a project with the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.

He says Poland is spearheading the exploration, and the country has high hopes that shale gas will free it from the chains of its longtime political oppressor.

Kenarov: “The talk is about energy independence from Russia. Poles feel very strongly about shale gas, and unlike other European countries they’re very much in
support of this kind of development for their country, but again, these are political reasons. They’re not as much about jobs and they economy like here in the US.”

Shale development is progressing very slowly in Europe. Kenarov says that’s partly because there are few companies that have the know-how, equipment and manufacturing support to get the industry growing.

Kenarov: “There are about 2000 rigs generally in the US. There are only 70 in the whole of Europe. So this industry is not very well developed in Europe and therefore prices for developing a gas well in Europe are about three times what they are in the US.”

But infrastructure and cost are only part of the challenges Europe faces. Several US oil and gas companies are interested in exploring Europe’s shale formations, but question whether those reserves hold enough natural gas to justify the investment. And the use of injection wells—the most widely preferred method to store drilling waste water—is outlawed around the continent.

Kenarov says for now, Poland and the other countries that are exploring shale are trying to figure out the best way to regulate the industry.

Kenarov: “The US is really the leader in this and everybody is looking at the US. It’s sort of the model for the developing of this industry.”

Kenarov says European countries are paying especially close attention to how the US ENFORCES its regulations, and how it handles the environmental problems that arise from shale development.

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