Shale Play Development in the US Poised to Decrease Need for Russia’s Natural Gas Supply
Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is an extraction technique for oil and natural gas that has created opportunities for producers in the United States to become major players in world politics. Using vertical rigs, oil and natural gas pockets in shale plays were primarily unrecoverable. With fracking, though, extraction has been so successful in areas such as the Bakken, Eagle Ford and Marcellus Shale regions that the United States has become one of the leading oil and natural gas producers in the world. This has been a critical political factor in the United States as the boom has helped to ease the effects of the recession and start back up the path toward a healthy economy.
Most European nations have banned fracking due to concern over environmental concerns that the process could affect water supplies. These bans have created a heavy dependence on the natural gas provided by Russia. With the current political issues between Russia and Ukraine, this has caused significant concern in many countries over Europe’s dependence. The series of natural gas pipelines that run through Ukraine are critical for many other countries in Europe in order to receive their supplies of natural gas from Russia.
Ukraine’s strained relations are especially troublesome for them because Russia has a history of withholding their natural gas supply as a weapon. Without the supply from Russia, Ukraine would freeze, and Ukraine does not currently have other resources they can fall back on.
In an attempt to break away from this dependence, Ukraine has signed a deal with Shell to explore the possibility of fracking in Ukraine in order to develop their own resources and cut ties with Russia. The United States Energy Information Administration has estimated that there are 42 trillion cubic feet of gas reserves in the shale plays beneath Ukraine, with the most promising reserves located in the Lublin Basin in the west and the Dnieper-Donets Basin in the east. This estimate has yet to be proven or confirmed, but Ukraine seems eager to explore their options, as this would help them to become independent of Russia’s resources. It would also give them the ability to become a supplier to other countries themselves, weakening Russia’s political influence and strategy in the world market.
Lawmakers in the United States government are also currently debating the feasibility of sending Ukraine aid in the form of exporting natural gas from the newly tapped shale reserves. In the past, the US did not have the resources to export natural gas. Now that the supply has overtaken the demand and dropped prices too low, many producers are eager to change the laws so that they can begin exporting to other countries. The Energy Department has already issued some permits to companies to allow natural gas exporting beginning in 2015.
Ukraine’s current political dilemma would not be immediately resolvable by natural gas from the United States because of the length of time that it will take to get pipelines in place. The success of fracking in the shale plays and the surplus do seem to indicate that, one way or another, the Ukraine will soon have new resources for seeking increased independence from Russia.