LONDON Feb 20 U.S. oil group Exxon Mobil
sought to cool predictions of a European shale gas
revolution, saying commercial production was at least five years
away and dismissed forecasts offered by other industry players
as "highly speculative".
Kevin Biddle, Exxon's exploration director for Europe, also
downplayed the prospects for Poland -- believed by many to have
the continent's largest reserves -- leading the shale gas
charge, saying on Monday that Germany was more likely to be the
first shale gas producer.
"Five years is possible for some areas -- we have to be
working at a pretty good clip to get any significant production
online in that time," he told the International Petroleum Week
conference in London.
Exxon, the largest oil company in the world by
market capitalisation, is one of the most active drillers for
shale gas on the continent, and is exploring in Poland and
Yet it has tended to make less noise about its operations
than some smaller groups, which have boosted talk that Europe
could experience the "shale gale" that rocked the United States.
"The high resource numbers that some people quote are highly
speculative," Biddle said.
Within half a decade, an explosion of shale gas production
has sent the U.S. market from shortage to glut and led to plans
to export gas as liquefied natural gas.
In the past year, some companies have spurred talk of a
European shale gale.
In September, Cuadrilla Resources said it had found 200
trillion cubic feet (tcf) of gas in Northern England -- enough
to feed UK needs for many years -- despite only drilling three
wells on its acreage.
Experts questioned how such a large find was ascertained on
such limited drilling.
Last month, Canada's Tamboran Resources said it had found
4.4 tcf of shale gas in Northern Ireland, without drilling a
single exploration well.
Also speaking at the IP Week conference, John Manzoni, Chief
Executive of Talisman Energy, which is also exploring for shale
gas in Poland, echoed Biddle's caution.
He said his company had completed two wells in the country
and planned to commence drilling on another soon.
The most recent had discovered gas and liquids -- which are
even more valuable than gas -- but said two wells were not
enough to determine whether the finds were commercial.
"People get very excited about it but this is early days,
it's going to take a while," Manzoni said.
The risks to the viability of shale gas are not only
Poland needs to develop a fiscal structure which will
encourage shale gas production, Manzoni said, while Biddle said
his prediction about Germany hinged on the country not banning
the controversial production process known as "fracking".
Germany's parliament has been holding hearings on hydraulic
fracturing, or fracking, which involves shooting water and
chemicals into rock to allow the gas inside to escape.
Environmentalists say the process risks contaminating ground
water, leaks methane into the atmosphere and can cause tremors.
Exxon last month said its two shale wells in Poland had not
found commercial quantities of gas, prompting Gazprom
Europe's largest gas supplier, to say European shale was an
(Editing by David Hulmes)