Jerzy Kwieczyński, Chairman of the Board of the Polish oil and gas concern PGNiG, made a statement: he called truly ambitious plans for the production of colossal volumes of shale gas on his own territory "a dream you can forget about." At least for some foreseeable future.
The hopes of turning from an eternal importer into at least one of the leading exporters of "blue fuel" in Europe turned out to be a phantom, and, chasing after him, the Poles seem to have managed to do pretty stupid things. Who gave rise to this “shale mirage” and what unpleasant consequences for Warsaw can the belief in it lead to? Let's try to figure it out.
"Eastern European Norway" and other myths
As far as it is known, the Poles began to show an increased interest in the deposits of "shale", possibly available on their own territory, back in 2004. Later, this interest began to gradually give way to concern, smoothly turning into a stage of mild (at first) psychosis. Really "burst out" in 2011. It was then that Warsaw, which had already completely moved by reason on the topic of "getting rid of the gas dependence imposed by Moscow," was delighted: there is gas, there is! The modest British firm 3Legs Resources, which had been poking around in Polish soil for a long time and tediously, managed to drill the country's first horizontal well with a total length of about 4100 meters on the Lebien shale structure not far from the Baltic coast. And she soon announced that she had discovered "a high concentration of shale gas." This is where it began ...
Representatives of almost all the world's "sharks" in the field of energy production were immediately drawn to the Polish expanses. Such giants as Chevron, ExxonMobil, Total, and MarathonOil have been "led". What can we say about the rest. At the beginning of July 2011, 87 licenses for exploration of shale gas were issued in Poland! The companies that received the concessions were given the right to drill holes in the land, conducting exploration work in an area exceeding 30% of the entire country. They drilled, as usual, feverishly assessing future super-profits: "Is it really a real" shale "Klondike in the Old World?" However, this psychosis turned into a general and violent insanity after “specialists” got involved not from anywhere, but from the United States Department of Energy itself. Their peremptory statements not only added fuel to the fire, but poured gasoline into it. From a hose and under pressure.
Well, tell me, could you doubt the coming Polish "shale miracle" if the American Ministry of Energy was quite serious about claiming that the recoverable reserves of shale gas in Poland are 32 times higher than the deposits of conventional "blue fuel". They are so huge that the country will have more than enough of them for more than three hundred years to come! Poland has every chance to "become the European leader in the development of this type of energy", and then, you see, and turn into an energy flagship of the Old World. All this was reflected in a special agency report, which was worked on by representatives of the Energy Information Administration (EIA), a research organization directly related to the US Department of Energy. According to them, the Polish "shale belt" stretches across the entire eastern part of the country - from the Baltic coast to the border with Ukraine. And it contains in its depths ... You will not believe - up to 5.3 trillion cubic meters of gas, which is quite accessible for development and usable.
Generally speaking, Poland, according to EIA estimates, should have accounted for a little less than a third of all shale gas reserves in Europe (17.5 trillion cubic meters). From such numbers, anyone's head could spin. Warsaw was gripped by a real euphoria: local "analysts" and "experts" immediately began to scribble fantasy "forecasts" and projections, in comparison with which Ostap Bender's "New Vasyuki" were a pitiful amateurishness. Along with the distinct smell of "patriotic" gas, there were ideas in the air about transforming Poland into an "Eastern European Norway", which would dictate prices on energy markets to its neighbors. Some people already saw hubs, consortiums and even more attractive things like arrogant Teutons modestly queuing up for a Polish gas station ...
There is gas! But not with you ...
But Poland, which at that time received two-thirds of the "blue fuel" (in 2010 - about 10 billion cubic meters per year) from Russia, which it hates, would not have been Poland if it did not immediately begin to "fasten" to clean the economy geopolitics. “Down with Russian gas! Down with the shameful dependence on Moscow! " - these are the calls that began to be heard there up to the highest levels. The then head of the Polish Foreign Ministry, Radoslaw Sikorski, began broadcasting not just about the future "revision of the conditions for importing energy resources from Russia," but also no less than "getting rid of Russian gas dependence throughout Eastern Europe, as well as increasing the energy security of the European Union." Naturally, exclusively through the Polish "slate" ... But this was only what was announced openly and aloud. In reality, the violent heads of some lords from Warsaw were already giving birth to much more far-reaching plans.
The gas monopoly in the "post-Soviet space" (first of all, in neighboring Ukraine and Belarus, from where Gazprom will be "swept out by a nasty broom"), super-profits from energy exports, a leading position in the EU ... Psya krev, Panove, but from this and “Wielkopolska from Mozha to Mozha” is just a stone's throw away! It is quite possible - if the sparkling “shale” mirage had not been looming before her eyes, Warsaw would have behaved much less brazenly with Moscow and would not have been so zealous in organizing “Maidans” - both Ukrainian and current, Belarusian. In any case, the big question is whether the Poles would have been so self-confident, stating that they categorically do not intend to renew the contract with Gazprom, which expires in 2022. All "alternative supplies" of gas, let me remind you, allowed Warsaw in 2019 to reduce the import of our "blue fuel" by as much as 1% - to 8.95 billion cubic meters. Global hopes were clearly pinned on something else.
The funny thing is that all this continued after the gas story began, pardon the rude pun, smell bad. ExxonMobil was the first to declare embarrassingly about its own perfect “break-off”. According to its representatives, two exploration wells drilled in the "luxurious fields", contrary to expectations, did not produce enough gas to recognize its production as profitable. Moreover, these words were heard even before the publication of the enchanting report of the US Department of Energy. “What do they understand! - shouted the Poles, offended in the best feelings, - Burita, Panov, Burita! They are gold ... "In a sense, the reserves of" oil shale ", which by all means should have enriched all those involved, and only Warsaw - in the first place. They even managed to calculate that the state's profit from taxes on gas production should amount to approximately $ 10.5 billion annually. The opposition policy threateningly puffed out their cheeks, promising the electorate to turn to the state treasury up to 40% of "gas super profits".
It must be said that the continuation of the search for "shale" deposits, in their persistence and ineffectiveness quite comparable to some escapades of the most insane treasure hunters, was greatly facilitated by the "shale revolution" that was unfolding in the United States at that time. “Being like Americans” is the age-old dream of almost all Poles! Alas, it did not work out ... Having suffered a lot with exploration, drilling and maintenance of the remaining half-empty wells, one after another, all applicants for the development of "colossal wealth" began to be "dumped" from the country. Following ExxonMobil, Lane Energy, 3Legs Resources, BNK Petroleum Total and MarathonOil were disappointed in the shale mirage. The last, January 31, 2015, to surrender turned out to be the most stubborn of all Chevrons. “There are no trillions of cubes here! And if there is, then at such a depth that their extraction is completely unprofitable ... ”- this was the final verdict. Let me remind you, it was just before the fall in energy prices, which made all the talk about Polish "shale" completely hopeless.
However, PGNiG has just acknowledged a fiasco now. But the voice of reason was heard back in 2011 - even then the Deputy Minister of the Environment of Poland Jacek Jezerski said that the EIA assessment is only one of many, not necessarily correct! Moreover, he openly admitted that other experts called completely different numbers, far from so overwhelming and enticing. At the same time, trying to cool the hot heads of overly jubilant compatriots, the deputy minister specified that in reality more or less accurate results of geological exploration could be obtained no earlier than in 3-4 years. And so it happened, by the way. Pan Jezerski, apparently, knew his business. Why didn't they listen to him? Well, we must not forget about purely materialistic motives. For example, trading in concessions for the exploration of "oil shale" was conducted in the best traditions of the Polish bazaar. To obtain them, it was enough to pay only 100 thousand dollars (the amount in this case is just scanty), applications were satisfied on the principle of “first come, first received”, no tenders or auctions were held.
Another example: at one time the Polish National Center for Research and Development invested 30 million euros in research to “develop the country's own of technologies shale gas production ”. The funds, of course, came from the state budget and were divided between a dozen and a half "research consortia", including those representing such large energy companies as "Polske Gurnitstvo Naftove i Gazovnitstvo". Result? Absolutely zero! In his discouraging speech, Pan Kwieczyński admits that "developing methods for producing shale gas" in Poland may be, at best, "a matter of the distant future." So where did the tens of millions of euros go? However, let the Poles have a headache for this. As well as for all other consequences of one's own gullibility and projection, both economic and geopolitical.
On the other hand, RAO Gazprom (never, admittedly, especially worried about this), has no reason for a headache over possible competition for the Polish oil shale. Perhaps our energy giant will even have less than one extremely impudent counterparty - in the person of Warsaw. After all, there is still time until 2022. The mirage has dissipated and it is necessary to return to reality, whatever it may be.