Poland to push ahead with shale gas exploration

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Poland said Friday it will push ahead with shale gas exploration despite France's recent ban over concerns that hydraulic fracturing used in extraction is environmentally risky.

"I already know who is lobbying against the extraction of shale gas. Please don't tell me it's Europe. There are people, institutions, interests which also manage to create effective lobbying in Europe," Prime Minister Donald Tusk told reporters, without elaborating who he had in mind.

"But we will proceed according to our own terms," he added.

Poland has already granted over 90 shale gas exploration licences to major international energy companies in the hope of bringing its considerable reserves to market.

According to Polish media reports, Russia's giant state natural gas monopoly Gazprom and France's nuclear energy lobby oppose the development of the shale gas market, fearing it could cut into their bottom line.

The 2004 EU nation of 38 million people, currently covers 30 percent of its gas needs from domestic resources.

Initial studies suggest the shale deposits run in a huge 650 kilometre-long (404 miles) diagonal belt across Poland, stretching from the northern Baltic Sea coast to the eastern border with Belarus and Ukraine.

Experts estimate the deposits could produce some 5.3 trillion cubic metres of natural gas.

On Wednesday, the French lower house of parliament passed on first reading a bill to prohibit hydraulic fracturing, a practice long used in the United States whereby water is pumped deep underground at high pressure to break out gas from the rock.

Environmental groups say that chemicals used in the process are a pollution threat.

© 2011 AFP

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