Shale Gas in Europe - Overview, Potential and Research
To date, more than 6% of the domestic gas produced in the US comes from Paleozoic gas shales which are thick and rich in organic matter. Shale gas production in the US is forecasted to increase up to 20% in 2020. In Europe shale gas exploration is still in its infancy, although first considerations about shale gas resources have been published in the nineties. Currently, the activities to explore the European shale gas potential are increasing, and are known from many European countries.
The dimensions and geological histories of sedimentary basins in Western Europe differ from North America as Western Europe is compartmentalized in smaller geological sectors. However, the European shale gas resources are estimated for around 510 Tcf as thick, organic matter-rich sediments occur in nearly all Phanerozoic strata. As a consequence, shale gas in Europe will not gain the significance as in the US. Instead, successful exploration of local shale gas plays in Europe will help to buffer the increasing request for natural gas on a local scale.
Even so there is little knowledge about the factors controlling shale gas generation in European basins. These factors may differ from those controlling shale gas occurrence in the US. Shales rich in thermogenic gas are known from many European sedimentary basins, e.g. the Alum Shale in Northern Europe (Cambrian to Ordovician age) or Carboniferous marine shales in the Netherlands and Germany. Analogues of the Antrim Shale in the US characterized by shale gas composed of biogenic methane may also occur in those regions which were glaciated during the Pleistocene.
Several industrial and basic scientific projects have started to investigate the European shale gas potential and first results can be presented. One of the largest basic research projects in Europe to date is the Shale Gas in Europe project, a initiative coordinated and started by the German Research Centre for Geosciences (GFZ) early in 2009. It aims to compile a European black shale database and includes research topics ranging from geochemistry to geomechanics. The investigation of European gas shales shall be coupled to investigations of the Barnett Shale as a reference for gas shales with thermogenic gas.
AAPG Search and Discovery Article #90090©2009 AAPG Annual Convention and Exhibition, Denver, Colorado, June 7-10, 2009