EU shale gas depends on better fracking process - BG
OXFORD (Reuters) - Success for shale gas extraction in Europe will hinge on developing more efficient techniques and a more targeted approach to fracking, Andrew Gould, chairman of UK gas producer BG Group PLC (BG.L), said on Thursday.
Until recently, shale gas extracting firms have used a "blitzing technique" whereby they frack as much as they can in the hope of opening gas to the well, Gould told delegates at a resource scarcity conference in Oxford.
Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, involves extracting natural gas trapped in tight layered rock formations by injecting high-pressure water, sand and chemicals.
"Everyone is working on this and eventually they will identify the most productive parts of shale and only frack where they know they going to produce (gas)," he said.
"Then the size and number of fracks will eventually decrease. If that doesn't happen, the shale gas industry in places like Europe will never take off," Gould added.
The world is seeking cheap new shale gas supplies from the United States, and oil executives and regulators are also looking at how to exploit potentially massive shale gas reserves in other parts of the world.
Fracking has been criticised for its potential to contaminate groundwater, degrade air quality and release harmful chemicals into the ground.
As a result, these effects are being studied and some countries have suspended or banned shale gas fracking.
Petroleum engineers say that shale oil and gas reserves of vast potential stretch across Europe.
European Union member Poland is making a large bet on shale gas as it could help the country's coal-reliant economy meet the challenges of the EU's climate policy.
Poland said last week it expects companies to drill at least 41 more wells in the country this year.
As larger oil companies move into the shale gas market, fracking techniques to extract the gas are changing, said BG's Gould.
Britain may have enough offshore shale gas to make it a global producer, energy experts believe, though only around 10 to 20 percent of total reserves are currently deemed recoverable.
Although production costs are still very high, new U.S. technology could eventually make reserves commercially viable, experts said in April.
BG Group said in May it would pause its U.S. shale gas expansion due to low gas prices in the United States.
(Editing by Jason Neely)
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