This article is part of our special report Poland: Ambitious achievers.
SPECIAL REPORT: There are 65 shale gas wells and drills in Poland, more than any other European country. The UK, the other EU member state with plans to develop the resource, has only a couple of wells.
Poland plans to build 50 new shale wells every 12 months over the next few years but currently, the focus is more on exploration than exploitation. It has granted 82 concessions to prospect for unconventional hydrocarbons, 72 of those are shale gas related.
Officials have shown EURACTIV proof of the scale of the country’s ambitions. [See the full list of concessions]. The companies who won concessions are Chevron, PGNIG S.A., Polski Koncern Naftowy Orlen S.A., Grupa Lotos S.A., Petrolinvest S.A., Winsent Oil & Gas Plc, San Leon Energy Plc, LNG Energy LTD, ConocoPhilps B.V., Moorfoot Trading Limited, Cuadrilla Resources Limited, BNK Petroleum, BNK Poland Holdings B.V., Kaynes Capital S.a.r.l., Mac Oil Spa, Basgas Pty Ltd.
But officials also insist Warsaw is committed to meeting EU legal and environmental stands in shale gas development.
The European Commission tabled several recommendations concerning shale gas on 22 January, after EURACTIV revealed the draft text.
“We are very devoted to applying those recommendations, we are doing pretty much what we can to apply those recommendations to the maximum extent possible,” said a Polish expert who asked not to be named.
He said that all the 65 exploratory wells were monitored and that there was no evidence of any pollution or soil contamination.
No single solution
The Polish view is that there is no “one-size-fits-all” EU solution because the characteristics of wells vary significantly. Expects believe specific conditions should be taken into account.
Poland has amended its geological and mining laws to reflect the EU’s recommendations. New legislation concerning the granting of concessions, the performance of concession and strengthening concession and mining supervisor have been passed in months rather than the years it usually takes to amend laws.
The EU is lagging behind in shale gas research because there are not many shale gas-related construction sites. Warsaw is reportedly putting pressure on the Commission to produce a report from several construction sites about every environmental aspect of prospecting for shale gas.
It is expected to be ready by the end of the year or the beginning of 2015, EURACTIV was told.
Several public information campaigns about shale gas were conducted in Poland. Opinion polls in 2013 showed that 73% of Polish citizens are in favour of shale gas, a very high figure by international standards.
Poland also insists that EU legislation should not put unnecessary burdens on energy companies.
Asked about a recent ruling by the European Court of Justice casting doubt on the legality of shale gas licences issued by Warsaw without open tenders, an expert explained that the issue had been dealt with in the new mining law.
Asked about Commission legal proceedings against Poland for allowing shale drilling at depths of up to 5,000 metres without first having assessed the potential environmental impacts, the expert said the process was still pending. It was being discussed by the ministry of environment in Warsaw and the Commission.
Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk last April called for an EU Energy Union, saying that the EU should pay up to 75% of the cost of gas infrastructure. EURACTIV asked the experts whether Poland was asking for funding from Brussels for its shale gas projects.
>> Read: Poland calls for EU energy union
The experts said the projects referred to by Tusk were part of the Connecting Europe Facility regulation and that none was related to shale gas.
Experts said there were many varying reports about what proportion of Poland’s gas needs could be met by shale. Poland is preparing a new report about the potential of the resource.
“What can be said for sure is that shale gas can play a role in Poland’s energy mix, which today is of 16 bcm a year [billion cubic metres of gas]. So every another 1-2-3 or more bcm is a game changer that can support us,” the expert said.
The energy mix would be further improved when the Polish liquefied natural gas (LNG) gas terminal in ?winouj?cie was completed, he added.
The ?winouj?cie terminal is scheduled to begin operations in the second half of 2014. In its first phase, the LNG terminal will have a capacity of 5 bcm/y.
Asked if the projects would be economically viable, experts said that all studies showed that the price of gas from the projected new sources would be competitive compared to pipeline gas and would strengthen the market.
By the end of the year Poland and the UK will present a joint report on the macroeconomic impact of shale gas in the EU.