The UK on Wednesday also outlined a plan to allow companies to drill under private property without the owner’s permission. These moves indicate a growing appetite for the long-term exploitation of Europe’s shale gas reserves. The crisis in Ukraine has added to pressure to diversify gas sources. But there are other long-standing factors, including high domestic energy prices in Germany, which are hurting the competitiveness of some industries and which are likely to have influenced the decision.
Out of the major European oil and gas companies, we believe Total could have a head start over rivals if European shale gas production ramps up, because of the experience it has gained from investment in UK shale. The group became the first Western oil major to invest in UK shale after agreeing to take a 40% stake in two licenses earlier this year. Total would also be well positioned if France followed Germany and decided to ease restrictions on shale gas production, as its home market is thought to have some of the largest shale gas reserves in Europe.
If European countries want to cut reliance on Russian gas, other potential routes include greater use of LNG. BG will be one of the first European companies to export LNG from the US, due to its participation in three of the six projects that have been approved by the US Department of Energy to export LNG.
The expansion of the southern gas corridor to Europe from the Shah Deniz field in Azerbaijan will be a further diversification opportunity when deliveries to Europe begin in 2019. BP and its local partner SOCAR announced the final investment decision in Stage 2 of the Shah Deniz field late last year. While production volumes will be small relative to total European demand, there is potential to secure further supplies from other countries in the region, including Turkmenistan and even Iran when political conditions allow.