PECOB Portal on Central Eastern
and Balkan Europe
Università di Bologna  
Tuesday July 16, 2024
Testata per la stampa

Shale gas drilling in Eastern Europe: a new energy frontier or another reckless operation?

by Michele Tempera


Rising oil prices, high pollution levels nd the global warming, have pushed East European intitutions to focus on replacing, as much as possible, coal and oil with natural gas. Moreover the dependence on foreign supplies and the monetary burden that it generates are persuading the authorities of the area to pursue alternative ways to gather the gas they need. One of the pioneering techniques to extract gas from the underground that is gaining ground in Eastern Europe is called “fracking”. It has has some strong consequences to the environment; will the benefits that it brings be higher than the costs?
“Fracking” (which stands for hydraulic fracturing) it is aimed at drilling the gas reserves contained inside the rocks of shale placed at great depth. The method used for this type of mining consists in injecting highly pressurized water mixed with sand and chemical agents in the underground layer of shale to cause its explosion and free in this way the gas previously enclosed in the rocks. The gas is then brought to the surface through drilling machines and is therefore ready to be processed and distributed. The result of this process, which is already operating in various areas of the world, takes the name of “shale gas” and it is seen as a source of energy with great potential in the near future.
The “fracking” system of obtaining gas, already employed in the U.S.A. since the mid nineties, has made its way into more than one European country during the last two years. It is spreading as a viable option inside the political and economic programs of more than one executive in Eastern Europe, which are building partnerships with some of the major energy companies of the world (above all from United States and UK). The exploration licences issued by the national authorities in the region are more then an hundred (the great majority in Poland) and the trend is that of increasing this number further. The drilling operations are still at an early stage, but the investments made by the multinationals involved, allow speculations of a quick development of the field activities.
The way in which unconventional natural gas is extracted, described before and called fracking, has some strong consequences to the environment. Amongst them there is the high risk of contaminating the water reserves contained in the underground with the chemical substances used in this particular process of drilling. Moreover that substances will remain active after the drilling, threatening for a long period of time Both the soil and the water at a more superficial level.

Original title: Shale gas drilling in Eastern Europe: a new energy frontier or another reckless operation?

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