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Poland hopes fracking will help lead it to economic revival

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By McClatchy Newspapers
Saturday, Jan. 26, 2013, 7:38 p.m.

WARSAW, Poland — A map of Poland, unevenly colored in shades of yellow, brown, green and purple, like a half-finished jigsaw puzzle, hangs prominently on the walls of the country's agencies and corporations. Official visitors, who are cordially invited to take a closer look, will see the label in the corner: “Map of Concessions for Hydrocarbon Exploration and Production.”

Poland, which last century was the target of foreign armies, today is being divvied up by a hydrocarbon fever. Hoping to reproduce the recent “energy revolution” brought about in the United States by the advent of fracking, the Polish government has spearheaded shale gas exploration in Europe in the hopes that one day it will have its own natural gas industry.

Despite the enormous infusion of capital and promises that production could start as early as 2015, however, Poland's gas industry has yet to take off. Hampered by difficult geology, a paltry service sector, a lack of adequate infrastructure, as well as an uncertain regulatory and tax environment, few exploratory wells have been drilled.

That, in turn, has delayed assessment of the actual size of reserves and left in doubt whether the industry could ever be commercially viable.

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