Hungary wants to develop unconventional gas production to help Europe's energy independence

WARSAW, Poland – Hungary is looking to start extracting unconventional forms of natural gas in a bid to help Europe become less dependent on Russian energy imports, government official said Wednesday.

Hungary’s unconventional gas deposits are estimated at some 1,500 billion cubic meters — enough to supply all of Europe for three years — but they are deep and hard to access.

Unconventional gas includes tight gas and shale gas. Both are difficult to extract because the gas is trapped in rocks, requiring deeper and more complex wells and technology.

Attila Nyikos, deputy head for international affairs at Hungary’s Energy Authority, told The Associated Press that Hungary wants to be among the few European countries embracing extraction of this type of unconventional gas.

“If European unconventional gas stays down, European (energy) freedom will be buried next to it,” Nyikos said, speaking on the sidelines of a shale gas conference.

Much of Central and Eastern Europe relies on Russian gas and is seeking new sources to limit that dependence because Moscow has been often using the fossil fuel for political purposes. Poland is the continent’s leader in exploration for shale gas, with some 67 wells drilled, but more data is needed to show if it is commercially viable. Shale gas is also pursued in Britain and in Romania, while politically-troubled Ukraine is waiting for foreign investors.

But most European states are reluctant to pursue tight and shale gas amid concerns that the extraction methods hurt the environment.

Hungary, which depends on Russia for some 80 per cent of its gas needs, has about 100 research wells for unconventional gas, seven of them by the Canadian company Falcon TXM, including one with small-scale commercial production.

At the conference, experts and industry professionals disagreed on whether Europe may see a shale gas boom.