European Shale Gas "Bonanza"

The implications and outlook are more complex than one might imagine

1 min read
European Shale Gas "Bonanza"

Two recent reports, one from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) and one sponsored by the European Centre for Energy and Resource Security, draw attention to Europe's large estimated reserves of shale gas and their wider implications. The revolution in natural gas plainly will not be confined to the United States. But how it plays out, country by country, is less obvious.

The EIA report estimates that Europe has hundreds of trillions cubic feet of unconventional gas reserves, enough--says the Centre for Energy and Resource Security--to last 60 years at current demand levels. (That compares to the usual estimate for the United States of "enough for 100 years.") Yet Germany, which is the European country most concerned about its growing dependence on Russian gas AND which appears to be in the process of negotiating a once-and-all nuclear exit, has relatively little--just 8 trillion cubic feet.

France, on the other hand, has an estimated 180 trillion cubic feet. Yet the French National Assembly just yesterday voted to ban any gas or oil fracking in the country. Whether or not France's upper legislative body follows suit, the country will remain committed to its longstanding "all-nuclear" energy strategy.

The geostrategic impact of shale gas may be greatest, initially, in eastern Europe, especially Poland. No country is more apprehensive about Russia than Poland, and none other so keen to minimize any dependence. With estimated shale gas reserves that are roughly the equal of France's, it will be pleased to see Chevron drill its first Polish fracking well later this year.

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This photograph shows a car with the words “We Drive Solar” on the door, connected to a charging station. A windmill can be seen in the background.

The Dutch city of Utrecht is embracing vehicle-to-grid technology, an example of which is shown here—an EV connected to a bidirectional charger. The historic Rijn en Zon windmill provides a fitting background for this scene.

We Drive Solar

Hundreds of charging stations for electric vehicles dot Utrecht’s urban landscape in the Netherlands like little electric mushrooms. Unlike those you may have grown accustomed to seeing, many of these stations don’t just charge electric cars—they can also send power from vehicle batteries to the local utility grid for use by homes and businesses.

Debates over the feasibility and value of such vehicle-to-grid technology go back decades. Those arguments are not yet settled. But big automakers like Volkswagen, Nissan, and Hyundai have moved to produce the kinds of cars that can use such bidirectional chargers—alongside similar vehicle-to-home technology, whereby your car can power your house, say, during a blackout, as promoted by Ford with its new F-150 Lightning. Given the rapid uptake of electric vehicles, many people are thinking hard about how to make the best use of all that rolling battery power.

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