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Russian Bear Hibernating on Shale Gas Reserves?

Russia is not known as an environmentally conscious country but that hasn't stopped the world's largest producer of natural gas from claiming that exploiting shale gas comes with high environmental risks.

The board of directors from Russia's Gazprom said that not only are there environmental risks associated with shale gas extraction but getting at the resource can be prohibitively expensive.

"The production of shale gas is associated with significant environmental risks, in particular the hazard of surface and underground water contamination with chemicals applied in the production process," the board said in a statement. "Europe presently lacks for the equipment required for shale gas fields development. Thus, the prime cost of shale gas production in Europe will be twice as high as in the USA."

Despite Gazprom's assertions, the fact remains that Russia sits on a significant amount of shale gas reserves. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, there are more than 80 deposits of oil shale in Russia, with some of the best being located in the Leningrad and Perelyub-Blagodatovsk deposits.

The USGS reports that some believe that there are more than 107 billion tons of oil shale in Russia and the states that made up the former Soviet Union.

In addition, Russia is home to the largest natural gas reserves in the world with 1.68 quadrillion cubic feet of the resource, reports the U.S. Energy Information Association. That figure represents about 25 percent of the world's reserves. By comparison, Canada has only 61.95 trillion cubic feet of the resource while the U.S. has about 285 trillion cubic feet.

Russia is the top supplier of natural gas to Europe, and has been watching the development of shale gas to its top customer. Russia is highly dependent on energy exports for its hard currency exchange.

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