Executives predict shale boom in Russia and China, but Europe lags behind


LAUSANNE, Switzerland -- Russia and China will lead the way in the production of resources from shale after the US, according to executives, but Europe will likely lag behind.

Torbjorn Tornqvist, CEO of trading house Gunvor, said Wednesday it was clear that shale production on a scale similar to that in the US is possible in several of the world's biggest current energy producers and consumers -- but that Europe is unlikely to be transformed by it.

Surging production of oil and gas from unconventional sources has seen the US outstrip predictions to become one of the world's most energy-secure regions.

"Is it possible to adapt that elsewhere? And the answer is yes, but not everywhere," Mr. Tornqvist said. "I think in Russia, you will see the first major change. You have the political climate there to drive through large-scale shale operations both in gas and oil."

He also said that China, Australia and South America were promising as a shale-exploiting countries.

Mr. Tornqvist sounded a much less positive note for Europe, which has so far been divided on its approach to the relatively new technology of hydraulic fracturing, the method of extracting shale resources known as fracking. France has voiced strong opposition to the idea, while the UK government has insisted that shale gas production "will happen."

Mr. Tornqvist said: "Europe? You all know the problems there: political problems, no-one really wants to see rigs on the landscape -- and problems and fears about groundwater and so forth will prevent Europe from exploiting its resources, which aren't that big anyway."

The Gunvor CEO was addressing the Financial Times Global Commodities Summit in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Bob H. Takai, general manager in energy for Sumitomo, speaking in a panel discussion that followed Tornqvist's talk, said that China could rival Russia as the biggest shale producer.

"As far as the reserve is concerned I think China has got the largest potential reserves of shale oil and shale gas, even bigger than the US," Mr. Takai said. He added that before those reserves could be accessed China would struggle with problems ranging from infrastructure to the availability of water.

The discussion led Tornqvist to reiterate: "It will take a long time. And if I was to put the first nation to do that in the scale, I would guess today Russia.

"Because they, through their political system, they have decided to do it," he said. "They have the infrastructure, they have the tradition of drilling gas, it isn't so densely populated, they have the water, they have the ingredients.

"And they're already doing it," he said. "I know from my talks with Gazprom; they have advanced plans to get into shale gas and shale oil."

Dow Jones Newswires

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