US shale gas production may "seriously" restructure supply and demand in the global hydrocarbons market, Putin said yesterday (11 April) in his final address to the Russian Duma before he takes over as president on 7 May.
"Our country's energy companies absolutely have to be ready right now to meet this challenge," he said.
Putin said Russia must be prepared for "any external shocks" and "a new wave of technological change" that was "changing the configuration of global markets".
"I fully agree with the proposal of deputies that we need to create a better system for long-term macroeconomic, financial, technological and defence forecasting. This is especially important, given that the 21st century promises to be an epoch [of] new geopolitical, financial, economic, cultural and civilisation centres," he told Russia's lower house.
Bloomberg reported that the United States overtook Russia as the biggest producer of natural gas in 2009 as it extracted fuel trapped in shale (see background). That has slashed gas prices and led nations from China to Poland to explore exploiting shale gas, potentially cutting their reliance on Russian gas.
France banned shale gas drilling out of ecological concerns. US energy giant Chevron suspended shale gas exploration activities in Bulgaria and Romania following ecological protests.
The Kyiv Post reports this is not the first time Putin has commented on shale gas. He mentioned it 18 months ago, saying that Russia's main energy company, Gazprom, needed to become more efficient in response to heightening competition.
Stratfor, a US-based strategic intelligence company, says the Russian gas business is struggling with a number of problems, mostly related to its Byzantine pricing system that provides generous subsidies to domestic consumers.
Gazprom is also concerned about revenues from sales to Europe, which could fall as a result of price negotiations with many of its European customers.
Coupled with Europe's diversification of natural gas supplies away from Russia, this means Gazprom could soon be unable to continue offsetting its domestic losses with high profit margins from sales on the European market, Stratfor analysts say.