Shell begins drilling for shale gas in Sweden

Eric Watkins
OGJ Oil Diplomacy Editor

LOS ANGELES, Jan. 15 -- Royal Dutch Shell PLC, despite opposition from environmentalists, has begun to drill for shale gas in Sweden, saying there may be enough gas to make the country self-sufficient for a decade.

"There could be enough gas to cover Sweden's gas needs for at least 10 years," said a Shell spokesman, adding that the firm is drilling its first well now and expects to finish three wells by the end of March.

Shell’s drilling program has met with resistance from local residents, according to the Skanska Dagbladet newspaper which last week said neighbors to the planned drilling site appealed to the Environmental Court over an earlier approval by the county administrative board.

Last November, the county administrative board of Sjobo gave the green light to Shell's application to conduct test drilling for gas in the municipality. That approval came after an earlier one by the Swedish Mining Inspectorate.

The approvals have been granted despite objections of some local residents and activists who fear the drilling program could have adverse effects on the environment, especially on the region’s water supplies.

Goeran Gustafson, a science teacher active in a green group which seeks to stop the project, expressed concern about the impact on ground water, saying that it could be contaminated by heavy metals and other dangerous substances.

Sweden is one of several countries in Europe where exploration for shale gas is being carried out by international oil and gas companies. Others include the UK, France, Germany, Austria, Poland, and Hungary.

In addition to Shell’s work in Sweden, ExxonMobil is exploring Lower Saxony, while OMV is testing formations near Vienna. By yearend, ConocoPhillips and 3 Legs Resources are expected to have test results from northern Poland (OGJ Online, Sept. 21, 2009).

The International Energy Agency estimates that unconventional gas resources in Europe, including coalbed methane, could amount to 35 trillion cu m, six times higher than the continent’s conventional gas resources.

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