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Finland can also benefit from the shale gas revolution

Started in the United States, this revolutionary development is an opportunity for industry, the environment and the consumer alike.

‘I used to live in the United States, where shale gas can be seen in so many areas. Shale gas has made it possible for the US to reduce its use of coal and decrease greenhouse gas emissions by 10%, while improving the economy. We're talking about an enormous resource, which could revolutionise the energy market and also have a positive impact on getting a handle on climate change,’ states Marleena Ahonen, who wrote her master's thesis on the subject.

In Europe, the utilisation of shale gas has been hampered by suspicions concerning its environmental impacts. Shale gas is natural gas found in geologically challenging deposits. Drilling for it requires a method called hydraulic fracturing--or ‘fracking’--which requires a very large volume of water and can have an impact on groundwater tables.

‘Finnish expertise in water management and mineral-based water purification techniques can reduce the environmental impact of fracking. Although this is already a business opportunity in the United States, it is particularly so with production also starting in China. There, the availability of water presents a major challenge, and Finnish cleantech expertise is highly regarded,’ emphasises Ahonen.

Toward a methane economy

The shale gas revolution therefore offers new business opportunities for the Finnish processing industry. It offers consumers and industry a more affordable and reliable source of energy, as natural gas could then be purchased not only from Russia, but also from Europe. Existing gas pipelines only cover a small part of Finland, but, thanks to Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG), the possibilities for using gas would be expanded to include the entire country. According to Ahonen, this could also make the collection and use of Finnish biogas more profitable, thus enhancing Finnish energy self-sufficiency.

How might the shale gas revolution affect Finnish daily life in, say, 30 years?

‘Hopefully by that time, we would be mostly using renewable fuels,’ says Ahonen.

‘Infrastructure expansion would also advance the methane economy, where the electricity generated from renewable forms of energy could be stored as methane, which we could use in same way as natural gas. The gas can serve as a sort of reserve, so that individual households would have their own methanisation tank in the basement. Working together with solar panels or wind turbines, the tank would produce a gas that could be used in the house or even to fill up the car,’ she explains.

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