January 20, 2014


Russia began drilling a well in its Bazhenov shale formation in Siberia this week, tapping in to what may be the world’s largest single reserve of shale oil.

Moscow is coming to the shale game very late; because Russia is already rich in conventional oil and gas, it’s felt little pressure to invest in unconventional reserves. But as its hydrocarbon production begins to stagnate, Moscow is realizing that shale energy might actually be worth looking in to. And no wonder: Russia has the world’s largest reserves of shale oil, and ninth-largest reserves of shale gas. Earlier this week, a joint venture between Royal Dutch Shell and Gazprom Neft broke ground on its first fracking well in the Bazhenov shale, just outside of Salym. . . .

If Russia is able to successfully plumb its Siberian depths for shale oil and gas, it could leverage its energy holdings towards its ambition of becoming a Great Power once again. But a long list of hurdles needs to be cleared, and no one—not the UK, not Poland, not even China—has been able to follow in America’s footsteps.

So far.