The focus is on structuring a new financial and organizational approach to developing Polish shale gas.
A successful outcome would have an impact on both continental energy sources and the ongoing European debt crisis. And the stakes have become even higher in the past several weeks.
In focus this week are the rising energy needs across Europe and what securing considerably greater sources of domestic natural gas will mean to the debt crisis. Meanwhile, we have to consider the potential for some North American companies to generate significant profits by meeting these growing energy demands.
As I noted during my last advisory trip to Poland, Warsaw has decided to fast- track its shale gas development. With reserves now estimated to be much higher than initially thought, the country has the opportunity to become self-sufficient and to start exporting gas to other European countries and elsewhere as early as a decade from now.
That would have a serious impact on the energy balance in Europe as a whole. With the prospects of additional domestically produced energy, the balance of payments will be improved, and with it the debt picture.
Now reinvigorating the Polish picture is not going to do this on its own. Here is where it gets very interesting.
What takes place in Poland will expand elsewhere into Western Europe. There are shale gas reserves in Germany, Hungary, Austria, France, the Baltic countries, Sweden, and even the U.K.
Political opposition has suspended activities in France, and the Greens in Germany have given notice that they intend to target shale gas operations after their successes in phasing out the country's nuclear power stations.
Poland, however, has no significant opposition to drilling. At least, not at the moment. But as I advised the government in September, that situation is likely to change as the number of wells increases. In order to combat any opposition, the country is going to need to access to drilling technologies developed in the Western Hemisphere, technologies that address the primary concerns about hyrdofracking and horizontal drilling.
The North American AdvantageThe eight- to 10-year head start North America has had on the rest of the world means there have been significant technological and operational developments in the U.S. and Canada to meet a number of the environmental and logistical problems related to hy drofracking and horizontal drilling.
It's these two advances that have ushered in this whole new world of energy in the United States. Now eight to 10 years may not sound like a huge advantage...
But it most certainly is.