YEREVAN (RFE/RL)—The US government pledged on Thursday to help Armenia explore and possibly develop its potential deposits of shale gas, a new and increasingly important source of energy in the United States.
The outgoing U.S. Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch signed a relevant “memorandum of understanding” with Armenian Minister of Energy and Natural Resources Armen Movsisian.
The U.S. Embassy in Yerevan said the document envisages a “cooperative assessment and technical studies of Armenia’s energy resources, including any potential shale gas resources.” In a written statement, it said this will be jointly done by Movsisian’s ministry and the U.S. Geological Survey, a government agency.
A separate statement issued by the ministry clarified that the two sides will not only explore Armenia’s “unconventional” energy resources but also gauge the feasibility of their commercial exploitation and, if necessary, devise “investment projects.” Natural gas would be produced from Armenian shale deposits through “use of the best technologies harmless to environment,” it said.
The statement added that the agreement stems from an international conference on shale gas that was hosted by the U.S. State Department last August. It said U.S. officials offered exploration grants to government representatives from Armenia and about two dozen other countries that attended the three-day forum.
“The organizers … noted the readiness of the U.S. government and companies to make investments in those countries,” revealed the statement. It said the Armenian participants presented “brief information” about the availability of shale and other energy resources in their country.
“In the Republic of Armenia, there are a number of shale fossil deposits from which one can extract not only gas but also shale oil, which is very similar to crude oil in terms of its characteristics,” said the Armenian Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources.
Neither the ministry, nor the U.S. Embassy specified the amount of financial assistance which Washington will spend on shale gas exploration in Armenia. Nor did they mention any time frames for the planned work.
Over the past decade, shale has become an increasingly important source of natural gas in the U.S. Shale gas industries have also emerged in Europe and China.
The world’s vast reserves of the sedimentary rock have led some analysts to suggest that shale gas will eventually become a real alternative to depleting energy resources such as conventional gas and oil.