European advocates of shale gas – and they do exist – have been hoping that the Ukraine crisis might galvanise governments into dropping objections to controversial fracking. But despite a growing and belated recognition that Europe must do more to diversify its energy sources, in Bulgaria at least the unpopular shale movement is going backwards.

Last month, US energy giant Chevron quietly closed its Sofia office, three years after it was awarded a licence for shale exploration that was scrapped months later. The company did not publicise its withdrawal and it has gone largely unreported. But the move is indicative both of the political challenges that frackers still face and of Bulgaria’s frustratingly inconsistent treatment of energy investors. Read more

A year after it lifted a moratorium on fracking, South Africa’s government is poised to issue exploration licenses for shale gas. The move is heating up the debate on the impcat of the process.

South Africa is believed to have some of the world’s biggest reserves of shale gas, providing an important potential source of energy for the coal-dependent nation. Unfortunately, they are found in the vast Karoo region – a sparsely-populated semi-desert stretching across the heart of the country, which is staunchly defended by environmentalists. Read more

They say timing is everything in business, and the Indian guar gum producers who invested in new capacity early last year – just as the US fracking business realised it needed thousands of tonnes of the stuff in a hurry – either got lucky or timed their market entry to perfection. But is the multi-billion dollar boom in this once obscure commodity now over? Read more

Shale gas and oil have more than usual appeal for Lithuania, where the government is eager to reduce its dependence on imports from Russia.

But a combination of environmental protests and government plans to hike royalties to the highest level in the world are creating daunting obstacles to investment. Chevron, the US oil major, could be the first to baulk at the new barriers. Read more

How much is the US’s expertise in developing shale gas and oil worth?

$1.7bn if you are Sinochem. The Chinese state-controlled oil and chemical conglomerate on Wednesday made its first foray into the US energy sector, snapping up a 40 per cent stake in a Texas shale oil and gas development from Pioneer Natural Resources. Read more

There is always a danger in using the word “inevitable”. Take the development of shale gas in central and eastern Europe.

It’s all very well KPMG describing it in such terms. Of course almost all of the countries in the region want affordable energy, but that’s not how some of the locals see it. The ‘Nimby’* contingent, aided by modern technology, are very active in the region. And politicians are taking note. Read more

Bulgaria (and France) may have moratoriums on it, lawyers may make a mint on it, Gazprom chiefs may curse it, and wells may cost three times the US price to get at it – but shale gas development in central and eastern Europe is “inevitable” in the next decade.

So says KPMG in a recent report – highlighting Poland, Romania, Ukraine, and to a lesser extent, Lithuania, Hungary and Bulgaria – as the main countries set to benefit from what the professional services firm says are the “fantastic opportunities, lying beneath peoples’ feet.” Read more

Indian villager in paddy in West Bengal Sept 2011Even as India is on track to build up to four new terminals for imported liquid natural gas, two of the country’s biggest exploration and production firms are conducting research into using hydraulic fracturing (or “fracking”) to access shale oil and gas deposits in India’s remote northeast.

If the deposits prove viable, India may end up able to cover its steadily increasing energy demand and even become a natural gas and oil exporter. But in the face of disappointing production from the Krishna Godavari basin’s D6 field – India’s largest natural gas field – it’s as well to be cautious about shale gas and oil. Read more