Amazingly, if you were to add up the volume of available shale gas in Europe, it totals an estimated 639 trillion (with a “t”) cubic feet of natural gas, more than four times the estimates for the Marcellus Shale in the U.S. Yet equally amazing European countries are either banning fracking or have instituted moratoria—they don’t want to use their own natural resources. No problem! The U.S will be happy to sell them some of ours.
Opposition to a drilling technique known as hydraulic fracturing has slowed the development of natural gas in Europe, creating export opportunities for U.S. producers hurt by low prices and a glut of gas at home.
Fracking, as the practice is known, was temporarily suspended in the United Kingdom after it was linked to a series of earthquakes. Bulgaria and France — home of the continent’s largest estimated reserve — outlawed it over environmental concerns. Some other countries are poised to impose moratoriums on the process, in which water, sand and chemicals are pumped underground to free gas trapped in rock.
This opposition, along with a projected growth in demand driven in part by Germany’s plan to phase out nuclear power, has created opportunities for U.S. gas producers such as Exxon Mobil Corp. Imports to the European Union are projected to grow 74 percent by 2035 as Italy, Poland and Lithuania build terminals to receive tankers carrying gas in liquefied form.*
*Bloomberg (May 23, 2012) – European Fracking Bans Open Market for U.S. Gas Exports