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Shale gas represents nothing short of an energy revolution for some countries, while others see the costs and risks of drilling as too great to overcome

From unbridled enthusiasm to extreme caution, when it comes to tapping shale gas reserves approaches vary widely. Energy security, export opportunities and environmental activism often combine in unexpected ways. Shale gas represents nothing short of an energy revolution for some countries, while others see the costs and risks of drilling as too great to overcome. In a new report, the Economist Intelligence Unit analyses fledgling shale-gas developments worldwide, with a focus on the countries thought to hold the largest reserves.

Proponents of gas, which burns cleaner than coal, suggest that it could be part of the answer to climate change. At the same time, even as energy demand surges ahead, the giants of the oil industry are finding it harder than ever to tap new reserves, which is forcing them to look to previously neglected, harder-to-reach hydrocarbons. Among these, hitherto disregarded shale-gas reserves are generating the most enthusiasm.

The groundwork for this has been a remarkable upswing of activity in the US, where over the last decade innovative techniques have boosted shale gas from irrelevance to the source of a quarter of all natural-gas production. And although the big shale-gas story has been overwhelmingly an American one to date, the search for shale is accelerating around the world.

The Economist Intelligence Unit's special report pulls together recent analysis of several shale-gas hot spots, in addition to addressing the implications of shale exploration for the energy industry's largest companies.

Report highlights:

• Corporates: Gas attack
Supermajors’ hot pursuit of shale gas is one of several reasons to be cautiously optimistic about the industry’s prospects.

• China: Preparing for opportunity
Chinese policymakers and state behemoths are laying the groundwork to begin extracting the country’s apparently mighty shale-gas resources.

• United States: Unconventional conflict
Despite an environmental backlash and other concerns, the shale-gas revolution in the US will continue to gain ground.

• Argentina: Untapped potential
Unconventional hydrocarbons meet familiar problems in Argentina.

• Mexico: Great expectations
Enormous shale-gas reserves offer hope to Mexico’s moribund energy industry.

• South Africa: Game changer?
Shell and other shale-gas players meet stiff resistance in South Africa, which has the continent’s most promising reserves of the gas.

• Canada: Between a rock and a hard place
Canada’s shale-gas industry is caught between a gas glut and stiffening environmental opposition.

• Poland: The next Norway?
Shale gas gives Poland a chance to bypass Russia—maybe.

• India: Shale of the century?
Excitement about a potential Indian shale-gas boom is building. As yet, there is not enough evidence to justify the hype.

• Russia: Bearish implications
A global shale-gas bonanza could bring big headaches for Russia.

Breaking new ground: A special report on global shale-gas developments is available at www.eiu.com/shalegas

Press enquiries:
Clair Whitefield, Grayling. Tel: +44 (0) 20 7592 7932.

About the Economist Intelligence Unit

The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) is the world's leading resource for economic and business research, forecasting and analysis. It provides accurate and impartial intelligence for companies, government agencies, financial institutions and academic organisations around the globe, inspiring business leaders to act with confidence since 1946. EIU products include its flagship Country Reports service, providing political and economic analysis for 195 countries, and a portfolio of subscription-based data and forecasting services. In addition EIU provides industry briefings and forecasts on 6 key sectors. The company also undertakes bespoke research and analysis projects on individual markets and business sectors. More information is available at www.eiu.com.

The EIU is headquartered in London, UK, with offices in more than 40 cities and a network of some 650 country experts and analysts worldwide. It operates independently as the business-to-business arm of The Economist Group, the leading source of analysis on international business and world affairs.

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