European shale gas prospects heat up

Doris Leblond
OGJ Correspondent

PARIS, May 29 -- Companies are seeking permits for shale gas prospects in southeast France in Languedoc Roussillon, the Cevennes mountains region, and the Savoie area near the Swiss border.

Total E&P France SA, UK Devon, Mouvoil SA, Bridgeoil Ltd., and Diamoco Energy are among the firms competing for the Ales, Bassin d'Ales, Plaine d'Ales, and Montelimar permits. They are competing with the Cevennes and Navacelles permits requested in 2008 by Egdon Resources Ltd. (also being eyed by Eagle Energy Ltd. and YCI Resources Ltd.), and by Cevennes Petroleum Development Ltd.

"There is much shale gas in France," said Francois Laurant, in charge of shale gas at Institut Francais du Petrole. "It has been seeping for centuries around the town of Grenoble in midsoutheastern France. But the disputed areas hold black shale in shallower ground than elsewhere in France like the Paris basin," he added.

East Paris Petroleum Development Ltd. requested the Moselle permit in Lorraine, in northeast France, targeting both shale gas and coalbed methane.

Charles Lamiraux, chief geologist at France's Environment and Energy Ministry in charge of exploration, said while targeting shale gas, companies could well find conventional gas and heavy oil.

Shale gas prospects abound
France is not the only country in Europe where shale gas is arousing interest. The Potsdam-based GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences designed and coordinated what it describes as the "first and biggest and most comprehensive" study on shale gas in Europe.

Brian Horsfield, one of the main collaborators in the Gash (German for shale gas) study, said the study was an interdisciplinary reservoir and regional-scale research project coupled with Black shale database being carried out by a multinational expert task force that includes Geoforschungszentrum GFZ, Institut Francais du Petrole, and Dutch geosciences organization TNO.

The project started May 1 and will initially run for 3 years with a 6-month reporting of database construction and research advances, a program directly connected with exploration and production issues, the evaluation of US and European basins, Horsfield said.

Gas in-place and producibility are the focus of the research activities with physical, chemical, and biological processes contributing to shale gas formation being examined by experiment, monitoring, surveying, and modeling.

Natural laboratories include, but are not limited to, Alum Shale (Sweden), Posidonia shale (Germany), Lower Carboniferous (Germany and Netherlands), Barnett shale and Marcellus shale (both examples from the US).

The data base spans 20 European countries and is being acquired in collaboration with Geological Surveys and selected universities.

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