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North American Shale Rush Continues Spread to Europe

Even as burgeoning North American shale plays are reshaping the world's natural gas market, a Canadian company is looking to join those that have already taken the drilling technology across the pond.

Vancouver-based Realm Energy International Corp. has filed applications for oil and gas rights that could span more than 1.5 million acres "containing high-potential shale formations" in seven European countries, the company said last week.

"The applications were filed following a rigorous evaluation of high potential shale deposits throughout the continent and, if successful, will permit Realm Energy to bring North American technological advancements in shale gas and oil extraction to Europe," Realm said.

Working in collaboration with Halliburton Consulting, Realm is concentrating on eight "discrete" European shale plays. The company said it has received confirmation of receipt from government bodies that its applications are under active consideration. Realm is evaluating other undeveloped shale plays and intends to make further applications to various governments for oil and gas rights early this year.

There have been other shale-related transatlantic moves. When Norway's StatoilHydro ASA agreed to pay Chesapeake Energy Corp. $3.38 billion to gain a stake in the Marcellus Shale in 2008, the two producers also agreed to explore for unconventional gas internationally (see NGI, Nov. 17, 2008).

The nonprofit Potential Gas Committee (PGC) last year reported that U.S. natural gas available for production had jumped 58% in four years, driven by improved drilling techniques and the discovery of huge shale fields in Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas and Pennsylvania (see NGI, June 22, 2009). The PGC estimated that the United States has a total natural gas resource base of 1,836 Tcf and a total available future supply of 2,074 Tcf -- the highest resources evaluation in its 44-year history. Shale gas plays accounted for the majority of the increase to the estimate, PGC noted, especially the gains in the Appalachian basin and in the Midcontinent, Gulf Coast and Rocky Mountain areas. By itself shale gas accounted for 616 Tcf of the new reserves estimate, or about one-third of the new estimated total.

But those estimates may still be too low, according a recent American Gas Association report, which stated that "some analysts that point to 8 Bcf/d of shale-gas production in the United States today believe that the volume could be increased to 13-15 Bcf/d (or higher) in only a matter of years, not decades, and thus become a prominent factor in meeting future gas requirements or even meeting growing natural gas demand" (see NGI, Jan. 25).

Because shale gas basins in North America have made the United States self-sufficient for gas, top executives at Russia's Gazprom may be considering a revision of their plans to export liquefied natural gas (LNG) to U.S. markets (see related story). Surplus natural gas also is said to be undermining the producer's competitiveness in European LNG markets.

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