With world-class IP and technology expertise, we are ideally placed to offer high quality advice on the development of the world’s unconventional gas reserves, including shale gas with its requirements for the application of existing and new innovations in such things as access to resources, drilling, monitoring and verification. Following successes in North America, we are starting to see arguments for shale gas exploitation gaining some momentum in Europe. In light of this, we have been reviewing the shale gas position in the European market as a whole, before focussing on some key jurisdictions in Europe.
Shale gas has divided European opinion. There have been attempts at the European level to impose extra, shale-specific rules relating to environmental protection. Certain European countries and regions, such as France,[i] Bulgaria,[ii] parts of northern Spain[iii] and Northern Ireland[iv] have effectively banned or imposed a moratorium on shale gas exploration and extraction. These countries may oppose development of EU shale gas exploration and production policy or support restrictive regulation in other European countries.
Other Member States, notably the UK and Poland,[v] have to date been much more supportive of national efforts to establish shale gas industries, with Poland promising to spend $1.57 billion in shale gas investment by 2016.[vi]
As our research notes, there is currently no single decided ‘European’ position on the exploitation of shale gas. But this is not to say that European authorities have ignored the issue. As you will see in the following sections, the European Commission has generated detailed reports that address critical areas of shale gas exploitation – economic, climate change impacts and environmental impacts – and has to some extent engaged with the European public. The most significant developments in Europe, however, are occurring within Member States.
In this research, we also examine developments at the national level in relation to certain European jurisdictions — the United Kingdom, Germany, Poland, The Netherlands and Sweden — as those countries deliberate whether and how to encourage the development of local shale gas resources.
Now at the end of 2014, it seems that the battle-lines in European debates remain divided, on the one side, environmentalist interest groups and, on the other, those concerned with energy security: the 2014 Crimean affair will make energy security a more pressing issue for many now than it was in 2013. It remains to be seen how Member States, particularly those in Eastern Europe who depend upon Russian gas supplies to meet their energy requirements, will make efforts to develop alternative sources of supply.