Visiting the first advanced drilling site in eastern Poland, Prime Minister Donald Tusk last week committed the country to extracting shale gas beginning in 2014. This will fundamentally transform the nation's energy prospects.
Now, Tusk and his government are in the run-up to a parliamentary general election (the voting takes place on Oct. 9), and the country's energy situation has been a visible campaign issue.
Back in Krakow, the prime minister's press conference was broadcast live at our shale gas conference. (Funny - it actually interrupted a panel I was on devoted to how the shale gas revolution will affect localities and regions.)
Turns out, the Polish shale picture is more significant than even I was anticipating.
The Impact Will Be Felt Around the WorldFor one thing, the projections of how much unconventional gas Poland possesses keep increasing.
The government is now convinced the country will become self-sufficient in energy and begin exporting gas to the rest of Europe.
Yet the implications hardly stop there.
Several of the ministers at our meetings are talking openly about using a new liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal under construction on the Baltic to move product into the broader global market.
Moreover, the rapid development of shale gas will require the creation of an entirely new technical sector to service the fields, process the gas, and apply the newfound largess. This means a significant upgrading of the national gas network, and the laying of major new stretches of pipelines and pumping stations, along with a concerted move to employ the gas as feeder stock for the petrochemical industry.
It is, therefore, hardly surprising that among the audience in Krakow were representatives from such field service powerhouses as Halliburton Co. (NYSE: HAL) and Schlumberger Ltd. (NYSE: SLB), European offices of international drilling companies, consulting agencies, research centers, and law firms.
And there will be plenty of work for all of them.
Rising Opportunities (and a Message for Moscow)Despite the refrain I heard repeatedly over the past several days - that Polish companies should provide the bulk of the services - this energy revolution will require outside assistance for years to come.