SEOUL, Sept. 16 (Yonhap) — South Korea should boost its efforts to develop shale gas overseas as it could emerge as a potential game changer in the global energy market, a high-ranking diplomat said Tuesday.
Shale gas is natural gas deposited in shale formations that is currently produced in only a handful of countries around the world, including the United States.
Once regarded as uneconomical mainly due to a lack of extraction technologies, shale gas has recently been hailed as a game changer in the global energy market as new technologies have made it available at lower prices.
Speaking at a global conference on shale gas, Ahn Chong-ghee, deputy foreign minister for economic affairs, said that the race to secure a stable supply of energy resources has been intensified due to unrest in the Middle East and the Ukraine crisis.
“Shale gas has been emerging as an alternative for overcoming the instability of the energy supply in the current international situation and is seen as contributing to stabilizing oil prices,” he said.
“What’s important at this juncture is that the Korean government and local firms should take changes in the global energy market as a chance to strengthen the country’s energy security and properly prepare for such changes.”
The U.S. has decided to lift some of its heavy restrictions on oil exports for the first time in 41 years, triggered by its brisk development of shale gas. The Ukraine crisis is also leading European countries to seek to reduce their heavy reliance on Russian natural gas.
For Northeast Asia, where Japan and South Korea are the world’s two main importers of natural gas, the necessity to secure a stable supply of energy takes on added significance, Ahn added.
“But there is also controversy over how fast the market for shale gas can grow or how long it will persist (as an energy resource), given that there are many limits in terms of technology, possible environmental pollution and infrastructure,” he said.
He also said that Northeast Asian countries should seek to pursue regional cooperation in developing China’s reserves of shale gas as well as natural gas deposited in the eastern part of Russia.
The one-day conference brought about 300 experts on shale gas and participants from companies at home and abroad, according to Seoul’s foreign ministry.
Resource-poor South Korea depends on overseas sources for 96.5 percent of its energy needs.