KIEV, Ukraine, Feb. 18 (UPI) -- There's enough natural gas in Ukrainian shale plays to satisfy the country's needs without imports, said Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov.
Ukraine aims to diversify an energy sector that depends in large part on Russian natural gas. The government is contesting a $7 billion bill from Russian company Gazprom for gas unused in 2012 under a "take-or-pay" contract.
Azarov said there may be enough shale natural gas for Ukraine to go it alone.
"We have enough deposits of shale gas to satisfy Ukraine's demand for this kind of fuel," he was quoted by Interfax-Ukraine as saying. "What we are doing now involves a lot of hard work, which should bring about practical results in some 5-7 years."
Ukraine is among the Eastern European countries eyeing shale gas reserves. In January, Shell Chief Executive Officer Peter Voser signed a $10 billion contract to explore Ukrainian shale.
The government estimates that Shell is targeting an area said to contain about 4 trillion cubic feet of shale natural gas.
"The main goal of any government is always to make not only short-term decisions but also decisions that have long-term effects for the country," Azarov said.
The news report adds that Ukraine will have an auction for conventional oil and natural gas acreage this year.