Natural gas is roiling global geopolitics, but the latest news -- a bad result in Europe -- is that the tsunami is still very much solely U.S.-based.
The U.S. shale gas boom has shaken up geopolitical presumptions by challenging Russia's gas-led hold on Europe, and threatening to crush far-dirtier rival fuels such as coal around the world. The thinking has been that Europe -- specifically Poland -- might be next in unleashing big, new shale gas supplies, an event that would make life even more difficult for Russia's petro-ruler, Vladimir Putin.
But ExxonMobil yesterday announced that its Polish drilling efforts (pictured above, drilling in the eastern Polish village of Grzebowilk) thus far have failed, reports Bloomberg's Joe Carroll. Exxon, the world's largest publicly owned producer of natural gas, said two exploratory wells in eastern Poland failed to produce sufficient gas to be profitable. This comes on top of a slew of bad signs about Europe's gas prospects: Over the last two years, drilling by three wildcatters -- Lane Energy, 3Legs Resources and BNK Petroleum -- produced only small volumes in northwest Poland, Bernstein Energy said in a note to clients this morning. Last year, Shell announced similar negative results in Sweden, and in 2010 Exxon declared its Hungarian shale-gas efforts a failure. On top of this, France and Bulgaria have banned hydraulic fracturing, the method used to produce shale gas.
Janek Skarzynski AFP/Getty Images
Steve LeVine is the author of The Oil and the Glory and a longtime foreign correspondent.