* Draft on shale gas tax seen in days -environment minister
* New law on shale gas to be implemented within months
* Sees no prospect for backloading compromise on CO2
By Agnieszka Barteczko and Pawel Bernat
WARSAW, Feb 22 Poland hopes to revive the waning
enthusiasm around its drive to become Europe's shale gas
powerhouse by passing a set of laws that would make it easier to
explore and extract unconventional gas, the environment minister
Poland had counted on an expected abundance of shale gas
sitting underneath large swathes of the country to boost growth
and reduce its reliance on Russian oil and gas.
But investors, already jolted by the government's
conservative revision of shale reserves estimates, have grown
concerned about its protracted work on a tax and regulation
regime announced in October.
"We are changing the regime so that it will be as friendly
to investors as possible, and I think as a result they will
intensify their activities in Poland," Environment Minister
Marcin Korolec said in an interview.
"Adopting all of the new regulations should be a question of
a few months," he said.
Poland wants the new regime to lighten the many bureaucratic
obstacles to exploration, including environmental limitations,
and will create a state operator to take part in energy
It also aims for a tax rate of about 40 percent of the
sector's gross profits from 2015, which officials say is lower
than those levied on energy production by countries such as
Norway and the United Kingdom.
In several days, the finance ministry should present its tax
proposal, which should not vary much from what the environment
ministry already flagged, Korolec said.
Some shale gas exploration firms had feared that Poland,
seeking to keep a lid on its budget deficit, could seek to
extract more cash from shale gas production.
Disappointed by the results from its test wells, ExxonMobil
has already decided to abandon its Polish plans, although other
global players such as Chevron and ConocoPhilips
remain determined to extract unconventional gas in Poland.
Poland handed out more than 100 explorations licenses to
companies, which also include gas monopoly PGNiG and
other government-controlled companies.
The Polish Geological Institute estimates the European
Union's largest eastern member may have 346 billion to 768
billion cubic metres of unconventional gas, far less than the
5.3 trillion metres predicted by the U.S. Energy Information
Association in 2011.
Test wells have also suggested Polish shale beds could be
much deeper than in the United States.
As for the carbon market, Korolec said Poland does not see
any prospects for a compromise on backloading, the EU plan to
withdraw 900 million emission permits from the bloc's emissions
trading scheme and reinsert them later.
"This is a one sentence regulation, which would allow the
Commission to intervene in the market. I also do not see why we
should be proposing something in exchange, since the system was
agreed on in 2008," Korolec said.
Poland, which relies on carbon-intensive coal, has been the
biggest opponent of European Commission proposals for
backloading and other measures to rescue the carbon market,
where prices have fallen so low that they no longer encourage
The environment committee of the European Parliament gave
its support to the backloading plan but said it needed time to
decide on a possible mandate for negotiations on the wording of
The committee members are now expected to decide next week
whether to take the discussion straight to a plenary session of
the European Parliament, expected in April, or whether to speed
up the process by kicking off legal haggling between the
parliament, Commission and member states before then.
"The issue requires a discussion on the plenary session. The
decision to support the plan was not unanimous," Korolec said.
(editing by Jane Baird)