Poland's treasury minister said Thursday that the country may start producing shale gas for commercial use in 2014, a move that should help the country limit its reliance on neighboring Russia for a large chunk of its energy needs.
Mikolaj Budzanowski said that commercial production of up to 1 billion cubic meters per year could start in late 2014. He said the deposits could be up to 2 trillion cubic meters, enough to add to Poland's energy mix for decades.
Poland is seeking to diversify its energy sources to cut dependence on Russian imports and its shale gas deposits are a major element in the plan. Nuclear energy and renewable sources are also to be added to the energy mix.
Poland's annual gas consumption is 14 billion cubic meters and 70 percent of that comes from Russia, at prices dictated by its Gazprom monopoly.
The nation's reserves are still being estimated and a state assessment based on geological research done in the 20th century is to be presented on Wednesday. It is expected to be well below the 5.3 trillion cubic meters estimated by the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
Some 20 international companies _ many of them American _ have obtained licenses to explore for shale gas and some have done some test drilling.
The technology of extracting gas from shale rock through hydraulic fracturing was developed in the United States. The move gave the U.S. a level of independence in the gas sector and led to sharply lower gas prices.