Geo-Metrics and Geo-Politics: Controversies in Estimating European Shale Gas Resources

  • Kärg KamaEmail author
  • Magdalena Kuchler


This chapter explores the relationship between geoscientific knowledge production and geopolitical agencies in the making of new subsurface resources, specifically unconventional fossil fuels. Focusing on recent controversies surrounding the assessment of potential shale gas resources in Europe, we analyse the ways in which highly speculative and contested resource estimates have come to inform the geopolitical imagination of many EU states and, in turn, provided a new impetus for geoscientific inventories and exploration of shale formations. In the first part of the chapter, we engage with recent volumetric accounts in political geography and cognate disciplines to conceptualize these epistemic struggles of resource-making as a case of “subterranean geo-politics”. The empirical analysis in the second part then traces the geo-politics of shale gas prospecting in Poland and the UK, describing how volumetric projections of resource abundance have become undermined by diverse materialities and sociopolitical constructions of the subsurface. This is evidenced by the difficulties of translating knowledge across geo-economically disparate sites of resource development, notably the failure to apply the US-based expertise to the European context. Finally, we document more recent efforts by the European Commission and other epistemic authorities to overcome the deficiency and incompatibility of local resource estimates by developing standard, EU-specific geo-metrics for shale energy assessment.


European Shale Shale Energy Epistemic Struggle Volumetric Projection Shale Formation 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



This research is funded by the UK Economic and Social Research Council (grant number: ES/N016351/1) and the Swedish Research Council Formas (grant number: 2015-00455).


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© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of BirminghamBirminghamUK
  2. 2.Uppsala UniversityUppsalaSweden

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