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Poland eyes commercial shale-gas output by 2014

PGNiG manages to flare gas from a shale-gas well at Lubocino during Prime Minister Donald Tusk’s visit

Poland could be producing commercial shale-gas volumes by 2014, said Prime Minister Donald Tusk, adding that the extraction process doesn’t damage the environment.

“With moderated optimism, in 2014 there will be commercial extraction, so really just around the corner," Tusk, the leader of Poland's liberal Civic Platform party, said during a visit to state-run PGNiG's shale gas concession in Lubocino, in northern Poland’s Pomorze province.

Tusk added that if Poland manages to develop large-scale shale-gas production, the country could be energy independent by 2035.

PGNiG managed to flare gas from a shale-gas well at Lubocino during Tusk’s visit on 18 September. The state-run company first succeeded in flaring shale gas from the well a few days before, but postponed the announcement to coincide with the prime minister’s visit.

The company, which holds 15 shale-gas concessions across Poland, is now preparing to drill and start hydraulic fracturing (fracking) at Lubocino. PGNiG aims to start a pilot project there by the middle of 2013 and to begin commercial production in 2014.

Poland has already awarded 90 shale-gas exploration licences to a host of international companies, including US supermajor Chevron and UK firm 3Legs Resources. Earlier this month, 3Legs Resources said it had flared gas from the Lebien well, also in Pomorze.

But while Poland may hold potentially vast shale gas resources, concern over the environmental impact of fracking could restrict development. Earlier this month, the EU energy commissioner, Günther Oettinger, said the European Commission intends to draft EU-wide regulations on fracking to create a single legal framework and set of environmental guidelines. The Polish government issued a statement in response saying fracking is already sufficiently regulated.

Tusk insists shale gas can be developed in an environmentally sustainable manner, and maintains that Poland should not bow to EU pressure to restrict fracking. Yet Tusk knows that, ahead of next month’s general election, he must also convince the Polish public that fracking is safe.

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