On July 9th 2010, Polskie Górnictwo Naftowe i Gazownictwo SA performed first in Poland large-scale fracturing operation in the Markowola-1 well (located within the Pionki-Kazimierz license) with the aim of proving unconventional gas reserves (tight gas). If the fracturing process delivers positive results, development work designed to prepare the formation for production will shortly be undertaken. If tight gas is found in the reservoir, production could be launched in three to four years.
Unconventional gas plays occur in shale rocks (shale gas), low-permeability sandstones and carbonates (tight gas), as well as coal beds (coal-bed methane). Tight gas appears to be the predominant variety of unconventional gas, e.g. in the US tight gas accounts for more than 20% of total recoverable gas reserves.
The technology currently relied on to produce unconventional gas involves drilling of a vertical well, followed by drilling of a horizontal well, which is then stimulated by fracturing: a mixture of water with sand and chemicals is injected at high pressure into the well. The mixture causes the underground formations to crack, as a result of which fractures open allowing the gas to escape to the surface through the well.
The fracturing operation on the Markowola-1 well will be performed by Halliburton Company Germany GMBH Sp. z o.o., Polish branch.
In Poland, unconventional gas plays are expected to exist within four petroleum provinces: the Gdańsk province, the Lublin province, the Lesser Poland province and the Greater Poland province.
PGNiG SA holds 13 exploration licenses covering areas with prospective unconventional gas plays (shale gas). Another six licenses located in the Greater Poland region may have tight gas deposits. PGNiG SA has already acquired 2D and 3D seismic over that area. In Q4 2010 another well is planned to be spudded in Pomerania, near Gdańsk.
The US and - to a lesser extent - Canada are the current world leaders in exploration for and appraisal and production of unconventional gas. Due to enormous demand for natural gas, in those countries production from unconventional deposits has now exceeded 40% of the total output.
In Poland, demand for gas is rising steadily. It currently amounts to approx. 14 billion cubic metres per annum, but is projected to exceed 20 billion cubic metres per annum in 2030. Over 60% of Poland's gas demand (counting based on the methane-rich gas equivalent) is met by imports.