Non-U.S. Shales Prove Difficult to Crack

Exxon, Shell and others are pulling back from once-promising shale finds in Europe, Asia

oil-drilling-polandWall Street Journal


After spending more than five years and billions of dollars trying to re-create the U.S. shale boom overseas, some of the world’s biggest oil companies are starting to give up amid a world-wide collapse in crude prices.

Chevron Corp., Exxon Mobil Corp. and Royal Dutch Shell PLC have packed up nearly all of their hydraulic fracturing wildcatting in Europe, Russia and China. The reasons vary from sanctions in Russia, a ban in France, a moratorium in Germany and poor results in Poland to crude prices below what it can cost to produce a barrel of shale oil.

Chevron halted its last European fracking operations in February when it pulled out of Romania. Shell said it is cutting world-wide shale spending by 30% in places including Turkey, Ukraine and Argentina. Exxon has pulled out of Poland and Hungary, and its German fracking operations are on hold.

The result: Outside the U.S., where fracking has produced a historic glut of oil, only China, Argentina and Canada have commercial shale production, the U.S. Energy Information Administration says, though America holds less than 10% of the world’s estimated shale reserves. Europe, including Russia, and China alone have nearly triple the reserves of the U.S., according to the EIA.

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