Poland's Shale Gas: Bonanza or Boondoggle?

Pomerania map

Polish state energy company PGNiG is set to start test drillings of shale gas formations in Pomerania later this month. Houston’s Marathon Oil, ExxonMobil and Chesapeake Energy are all interested in the Baltic Coast region’s possibilities. If the play turns out to have as much gas as expected, it would go a long way toward breaking the stranglehold Russian suppliers have on Central Europe.

Peter Zeihan, an analyst with private intelligence firm Stratfor, says that’s a nice dream, but it’s not likely to happen any time soon.

“A successful shale gas operation requires a preexisting infrastructure both to gather and then to distribute the natural gas, and this is something Poland just doesn’t have. So even if the Poles were to discover vast tracts of natural gas, it will still cost them tens of billions of euros to build the gathering infrastructure, the transport pipelines, the electricity generation facilities, and the chemical plants necessary to take advantage of it.”

U.S. firms will have to weigh just how much they’re prepared to invest to bring Polish gas to the surface.

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