Since the early 2000s, the exploitation of shale gas has radically modified the US energy scenario. In a number of European countries, the US boom has elicited questions about its repeatability in Europe. Among the staunchest supporters of the development of national shale-gas resources were Polish administrations, which grounded their activism in this domain in the language of energy security, autonomy vis-à-vis Russian gas, and in Poland’s old oil history. The history of hydrocarbon exploration in the country dates back to the mid-nineteenth century, and is connected to the oil boom that occurred in the region of Galicia. While the boom was over by World War I, promising estimations made in recent years by several agencies about Poland’s shale gas reserves have stirred hopes of a ‘second Galicia’. From 2007, the Polish government started assigning permits to both national and foreign gas companies. However, factors linked to legislation, geology and macroeconomics caused a premature end to hopes of Polish autonomy. After a reconstruction of the history of oil in Galicia and the constitution of the Polish oil and gas sector, this paper narrates the rise and fall of Poland’s ‘affair’ with shale gas.
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The history of the European oil and gas industry reflects local as well as global political events, economic constraints and the personal endeavours of individual petroleum geoscientists as much as it does the development of technologies and the underlying geology of the region. The first commercial oil wells in Europe were drilled in Poland in 1853, Romania in 1857, Germany in 1859 and Italy in 1860. The 23 papers in this volume focus on the history and heritage of the oil and gas industry in the key European oil-producing countries from the earliest onshore drilling to its development into the modern industry that we know today. The contributors chronicle the main events and some of the major players that shaped the industry in Europe. The volume also marks several important anniversaries, including 150 years of oil exploration in Poland and Romania, the centenary of the drilling of the first oil well in the UK and 50 years of oil production from onshore Spain.