There are various methodologies currently being used with respect to minerals and petroleum exploration both onshore and offshore Ireland that will continue to be used into the future.
Exploration for “unconventional gas” or “shale gas” is a live issue in a number of EU Member States. Exploration is on-going in a number of Member States while others have taken a more precautionary approach. France, for example, has banned the use of the technology known as hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking”, while exploration using the technique is proceeding in Poland. The UK recently allowed further exploration for unconventional gas.
There is a considerable body of recent and on-going research in this area in both the USA and Europe. The European Commission commissioned three recent reports in the matter:
1. Unconventional Gas: Potential Energy Market Impacts in the EU
2. Climate Impact of Potential Shale Gas Production in the EU
3. Report on the identification of potential risks for the environment and human health arising from Unconventional Gas operations in Europe.
The Commission has indicated that later this year it intends to commence a study on Environmental, Climate and Energy Assessment Framework to enable safe and secure unconventional hydrocarbon extraction to be undertaken.
The global economic perspective to the unconventional oil and gas phenomenon has however, to be acknowledged, including the US boom in unconventional fossil fuels. It is recognised that the advent of unconventional oil and gas has been a ‘game-changer’ on the US energy market with global repercussions, but is also playing a significant role in economic development in the US. As the EU is likely to remain a “higher” energy cost region in the future, it is appropriate that we consider the impacts that unconventional oil and gas production will have on security of supply, energy prices and competitiveness.