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Shale gas project in Ukraine corrected to meet regional interests

September 02, 2013, 23:15 UTC+3

The first exploratory wells are to be drilled already this year

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KIEV, September 2 (Itar-Tass) - Royal Dutch Shell was named the best bidder for the development of the Yuzovskoye field in May 2012. At the stage of geological exploration, the company will invest 200 million U.S. dollars in the project and nearly 3.75 billion U.S. dollars at the stage of commercial production.

The first exploratory wells are to be drilled already this year. According to the Ukrainian government, the Yuzovskoye field contains more than 4,000 billion cubic metres of shale gas.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Nikolai Azarov believes that its development will allow Ukraine to double or even treble overall gas production in the future.

Ukrainian Minister of Energy and Coal Industry Eduard Stavitsky said the agreement would “reduce energy dependence on Russia.” The first effect is expected in 2015, with the energy dependence on Russia to be “brought to zero” by 2020.

However experts are alarmed: the project can cause serious damage to the environment of Ukraine’s most densely populated region. Shale gas production plans have already spurred public protests in the region.

Commercial shale gas production in Ukraine can cause irreparable damage to the environment, the head of the Ukrainian Ecological League, Tatyana Timochko, said.

She said, citing findings by Ukrainian scientists from the National Academy of Sciences, that it would take an area of about two hectares to drill just one well.

According to the expert, this will mean stripping the area “down to clay” in order to get a stable solid surface for process equipment, whereupon “thousands of hectares of fertile land will be ruined irrecoverably.”

“This technology [of underground hydraulic reservoir fracturing] requires 5,000 to 20,000 cubic metres of water mixed with chemicals to be pumped down to a depth of 3-5 kilometres, with only 20-25 percent of this water coming back to the surface afterwards,” she said.

After passing through radioactive rock, the water mixed with rocks, clay, sand and chemicals will come back to the surface, but it is not known how it will be recycled, Timochko said.

“This water will get back to the surface and then what? It’s nothing like the Marcellus Formation in America where the public forced [the authorities] to build a plant for recycling this mass only 15 years later. Until then it was dumped into the desert, into some pits there. But density [of population] there where the Marcellus Formation is, is 2 persons per square kilometres, while in the Kharkov and Donetsk regions it is 78-84,” she said.

Timochko stressed that “there is simply no place to dump this solution” in Ukraine. “All this dirt will stay on the surface and will poison surface water,” she warned.

She also spoke of possible consequences of shale gas production in areas where coal was or still is mined.

“Mines have already created manmade faults and if hydraulic fracturing starts, the degree of ground shaking will increase. These are manmade earthquakes that the British spoke of and that forces them to stop shale gas production in England,” Timochko said.

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