Hydraulic fracturing, the practice used to extract natural oil and gas from underground shale wells, is soon expected to take off across Europe as regional governments begin to show political support for the unconventional energy source.
In the US fracking, as hydraulic fracturing is also known, has been taking place for more than 60 years, with more than 1m wells drilled during that time. More recently, a US fracking boom has taken off as the government looks to develop this unconventional and less carbon intensive energy source.
Industrial Minerals, an industry publication which has built a team of experts in the fracking and oilfield minerals industry, is holding an event in London on 30 April to address the growing market in Europe.
“In Europe, the fracking industry has been slower to develop, with restrictions on the process only just beginning to lift,” Emma Hughes, Deputy Editor and Industrial Minerals’ fracking specialist, explains.
“According to the US Energy Information Administration, Europe could have as much as 639 trillion cubic feet of recoverable shale gas reserves. Exploration has already taken place in Poland and Romania, and most recently the UK has joined the dash for gas,” she added.
“Many countries in Europe have potential shale gas resources. Exploration, mainly onshore (there is also significant offshore potential), is at an early stage,” explained Dr Nick Riley, a team leader for unconventional gas at the British Geological Survey (BGS) who will be speaking at Industrial Minerals’ upcoming Proppant Prospects for Europe event in London.
“In some countries exploration is not permitted. For a variety of geotechnical and socio-economic reasons, commercial shale gas development in Europe will be slower and done in a different way to that seen in North America,” he added.
Early experiences of shale gas fracking in Europe, such as the seismicity associated with Cuadrilla’s activity in the UK, provide an insight into how public concern over the potential impacts of fracking can mount.
In some countries, such as Germany, apprehension over the potential health and environmental impacts of fracking is one of the main reasons behind delayed regulations for the process.