PRODUCTION AND EXPLOITATION

Shale gas production

The first attempts to extract shale gas were made in the 19th century. However, because there was no technology ensuring the inflow of gas to the borehole, this source of energy could not be used. Gas from shales gained industrial significance only in recent years. Due to two modern techniques: horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing. After discovering the great Barnett field in Texas, USA, production developed on a great scale of 50 billion m3 (8% of production in the United States in 2008).

Even in the 1980s, drilling rigs were located at the distance of even 1–2 kilometers in huge areas of American production fields. Along with the development of technology, the scale of drilling impact was improved and reduced. Today, instead of a dozen or so drilling rigs, there is only one installed on the deposit. Using the most modern gas production technology makes it possible to reduce the costs of exploitation, but the profitability of shale gas production may be evaluated only after conducting exploration boreholes, the analysis of samples and tests of the deposit's effectiveness. The difficulty consists in the fact that it may be different even within one deposit.

In Poland, all shale gas deposits belong to the State Treasury. In order to conduct the production of raw materials, the oil company has to first operate according to the received exploration license and then obtain the production license from the Ministry of Environment. This license will be issued only when all formal conditions, including those concerning ecological production, have been fulfilled. According to the EU directive on hydrocarbons, defining the principles of granting licenses for the exploration and production of hydrocarbons in EU in Member States, production licenses have to be granted on the basis of tender procedures. The Ministry of Environment issued 111 licenses for the exploration non-conventional gas in Poland, among others, to the following companies: PGNiG, Lotos, Orlen Upstream, Chevron, Marathon and Talisman Energy (as of 01 September 2012).

The licenses for exploration and identification of shale gas deposits granted in Poland do not entitle to extract the gas. In the case of discovering and documenting non-conventional gas deposits from shales, the entrepreneur may submit another application to the Minister of Environment – for granting an a license to extract this raw material from the deposit. The licensing authority then conducts a new, separate administrative proceeding in the course of which it will define proper conditions and future liabilities of the licensee.

If production commences, the outlet of the borehole on the surface is protected by means of an exploitation head which provides complete tightness and thus safety for people and the environment. The next stage is the construction of a system for cleaning and drying the gas and a pipeline connecting the opening with the transmission grid which is conducted under the ground. Pure natural gas, via a system of transmission and distribution gas pipelines, reaches end recipients – households, companies and industrial plants.

If production does not commence, the borehole area is subject to complete reclamation, including the recovery of its primary shape and regulating water relations. Humus, accumulated in the form of embankments surrounding the drilling rig area, is leveled and then agrotechnical reclamation is performed. This consists in collecting and removing slabs and debris, fertilizing, ploughing, harrowing and sowing plants. When production commences, the area around the separated and secured area undergoes reclamation to the same extent. Previous experience suggests that an active gas collection center does not constitute a significant interference in the landscape because its area, depending on the completed transmission infrastructure, may amount to approx. 500 m2 or even be restricted to the area of a small home garden. The gas mine is almost invisible, inoffensive and constitutes the same landscape element as a store or a small gas station.

Currently, the largest shale gas production takes place in the USA. The beginning of shale gas production in Poland is scheduled for the years 2014-2015 and will give an opportunity to create new workplaces, will ensure the development of infrastructure and may positively affect the Polish GDP.

More information on American shale gas production and "the shale revolution" may be found in the section: Gas from shales in the world in the tab: Knowledge Zone. We also encourage you to become familiar with the Kościuszko Institute Report included in the section Reports. 

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