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Unconventional gas in Europe: Frack to the future

January 31, 2013

SHALE gas and oil are propelling America to energy self-sufficiency and giving its economy a handy boost. Europe?s shale-gas deposits are said almost to match those across the Atlantic (see map). Will the old continent soon enjoy the same benefits?The mismatch between the hope and reality for European shale gas was neatly summarised by a deal sealed on January 24th that will allow Shell to probe Ukraine for unconventional gas. Ukrainian politicians talked of a $10 billion investment. Shell took a more cautious line. The firm certainly hopes to find plenty of gas in eastern Ukraine. But it will first do some seismic testing and sink 15 test wells. If the results are disappointing it could, like ExxonMobil in Poland, walk away.It is too early to tell whether Europe?s shale beds will really prove as bountiful as America?s. Only a handful of test wells have been sunk. Exxon may have quit Poland, the country where exploration has gone furthest, but other firms are having more joy. Determining which countries might enjoy a bonanza of cheap gas is highly speculative, a recent report by Deutsche Bank points out: many things are in flux, including extraction...

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