VILNIUS - Lithuania should do all it can to extract natural gas from its shale rock layers, Energy Minister Arvydas Sekmokas said on May 13, reports AFP. “I will propose to the government to take immediate steps to make shale gas extraction in Lithuania a reality,” Sekmokas, who was visiting the United States this week to talk with industry experts, said in a statement.
He underlined that Lithuania is estimated to have sufficient reserves of gas trapped in shale - sedimentary rock containing hydrocarbons - to cover its needs for between 30 and 50 years. Though generally more expensive to extract than conventional natural gas, it is seen as a way to cut dependence on imports.
Lithuania relies entirely on Russia for its gas, a legacy of its time as a Soviet republic.
The small Baltic nation’s relations with Moscow have remained rocky since it won independence from the Kremlin as the Soviet Union unraveled in 1991.
Vilnius is locked in a market-reform dispute with Russian gas giant Gazprom, which, besides being its supplier, also owns a stake in Lithuania’s gas distribution network.
Lithuania is also planning to build a liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal on its coast in a drive to diversify suppliers.
All three Baltics States have their eyes on building their own LNG terminal in an effort to become the import hub for the region. The Baltic States’ prime ministers, who met last weekend in Tallinn, have not yet reached an agreement, though, on whether and where to build one big liquefied natural gas terminal in the Baltic States.
“The three of us had a nice dinner where we discussed the matter. We agreed that each of us will make a feasibility study and then we will see what kind of regional infrastructure we need,” Lithuanian Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius said. Lithuania intends to build a small floating LNG terminal for its own needs in Klaipeda by 2014 in any case, with its own means and without asking for EU help. That does not rule out Lithuania’s possible participation in a bigger terminal project.
“We also discussed that there could be more of these terminals, in Estonian and Latvian ports too,” said Kubilius.
“We tend to think that the project could be located in Latvia,” said Latvian Prime Minister Valdis Dombrovskis. “We could then use the Incukalns gas storage facility, which already has a network to transport gas to Estonia and Lithuania,” he said.
“An analysis is needed that would deal with grids, liberalization of the gas market in all three Baltic States, technical and legal aspects,” added Dombrovskis. Finland could be included in the project, but these talks have not yet started properly, he said.
Energy remains a key topic in the Baltics not only on gas import issues. At the meeting with Sekmokas in Washington, D.C. on May 11, Chairman of the Subcommittee on Europe of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs Dan Burton conveyed to Ambassador Zygimantas Pavilionis a letter from seven U.S. members of Congress, expressing concern about the safety of the nuclear power plants that are planned to be built in Lithuania’s neighborhood, reported the press service of Lithuania’s Foreign Affairs Ministry. On May 9, the letter was sent to the U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, signed by U.S. Senators Jon Kyl, Mike Crapo, Jeff Sessions and Ron Johnson, and members of the House of Representatives John M. Shimkus, Dan Burton and Jeff Fortenberry.
Belarus and Russia are not properly cooperating with the Lithuanian authorities in providing information on compliance with security requirements and international norms when implementing nuclear power projects in the neighboring countries, reads the letter.
Members of Congress fear that motives of nuclear power development in Russia and Belarus are based not on objective needs for electricity, but on the wish to stay dominant over the supply of energy resources to European countries. Members of Congress call on the U.S. administration to promote Europe’s independence from Russian energy resources and to actively support Lithuania’s own nuclear power project, at Ignalina, which still has an uncertain future amid ongoing delays and lack of visible progress.