Conference report: Unconventional hydrocarbons - the Polish experience in the European dimension



“Please, do it. This is a very good direction” – with these words Professor Jerzy Buzek encouraged Polish geologists in Brussels to continue shale gas investigation and exploration efforts in Poland. 

The conference "The Unconventional hydrocarbons - the Polish experience in the European dimension" gathered almost a hundred of attendees – specialists in unconventional hydrocarbons, but also members of the European Parliament, the European Commission, and of the EU Steering Committee, as well as representatives of the petroleum industry and environmental organisations. The Conference held on 17 September 2015 was hosted by Polish Geological Institute – National Research Institute. Weblink: Conference website (incl. speaker presentations).

Professor Jerzy Buzek, former Prime Minister of Poland and former President of the European Parliament, currently EP member and Chairman of the EP Committee on Industry, Research and Energy, was an honorary guest of the Conference.

In his address, Professor Buzek has emphasized the importance of diversification in the supply of energy resources, especially considering the planned Nord Stream gas pipeline.

How can we react? Decidedly: by taking full advantage of all domestic sources that are available – said former President of the European Parliament. He clearly emphasized the importance of research on shale gas and of the development of new energy production and distribution technologies. While assuring that he is a dedicated supporter of renewable sources of energy, he has noted that they are unlikely to substitute all the energy derived from conventional sources. Therefore – he added – such fuels as gas must be our guarantee for uninterruptible energy supply. That's why continued research on shale hydrocarbons is a necessity. – Please, do it. We are looking forward to seeing the results of your work – said Professor Buzek.

Also Mr. Sławomir Brodziński, Chief National Geologist and Undersecretary of State at the Polish Ministry of the Environment, highlighted the need to use various energy sources with special emphasis on the research on shale hydrocarbons. 

Poland's experience in shale gas exploration and appraisal are unique in the European, and partly also in a global dimension. A comprehensive approach, including reservoir management, collaboration with investors, environmental and social aspects, will certainly attract further studies in Poland and other countries – he said and added: - The debate on shale gas development should be based on results of scientific research rather than emotions.

Professor Grzegorz Pieńkowski of Polish Geological Institute presented the results of studies, key achievements and lessons learned. He reminded the high hopes aroused by the estimates of the US Energy Information Agency, according to which recoverable shale gas resources were to be in excess of 5 Tcm. Polish experts have estimated the resources at no more than 768 Bcm. The latter amount would allow for annual shale gas production in the order of 5 Bcm. – Even that volume is worth of consideration, as it would cover one third of Poland's requirement for gas – said Professor Pieńkowski. With regard to Polish experience in unconventional gas exploration and appraisal he emphasized that it may serve to Europe as a huge demonstration project. 

Other presenters fully concurred with that statement. Mr. Simon Talbot, Managing Director at Ground-Gas Solutions Ltd, has expressed the opinion that the United Kingdom, where shale gas exploration is underway, is lagging 4 to 5 years behind Poland in that respect, also when environmental studies are concerned. Presentations by Dr. Monika Konieczyńska and Dr. Małgorzata Woźnicka (PGI-NRI) on the results of Europe's first environmental monitoring of shale exploration drilling sites, as delivered in Poland in 2012-2014, fully substantiated that statement. The studies have demonstrated that shale gas exploration and production operations are safe to the environment. Any potential environmental risks are negligible and effectively mitigated, if works are delivered according to the best practice.

Any information of this kind is hardly noticed by the public and by politicians who are often driven by emotions and particular needs in public debates, but seldom rely on the results on reliable scientific research studies, as strongly emphasized by Professor Hans Joachim Kümpel, German Federal Geological Survey Head. 

The issue of environmental risks has reemerged at the panel discussion held in the second part of the meeting with contributions from other presenters: Mr. Rafał Miland, Director of the Department of Geology and Concessions, Ministry of the Environment, and Mr. Koen Verbruggen, President of EuroGeoSurveys and of the Irish Geological Survey.

The Conference was held under the auspices of the Ministry of the Environment and of the EuroGeoSurveys and was financially supported by the National Fund for Environmental Protection and Water Management.

Written by Andrzej Rudnicki

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Conference report: Unconventional hydrocarbons - the Polish experience in the European dimension