DAVOS, Switzerland, Jan. 29 (UPI) -- Extracting natural gas from shale rocks could redefine the energy sector in the United States during the next century, oil executives said in Switzerland.
U.S. companies have pioneered a method known as hydraulic fracturing to extract natural gas from shale rocks and coal seams. The technology uses water, sand and chemicals to break up rock formations to gain access to natural gas.
Environmental activists complain the amount of water needed for the extraction and subsequent drilling pollutes the ground water.
But energy executives and analysts said the unconventional extraction method could redefine the dynamics of the global energy sector, London's Guardian newspaper reports.
Andrew Neff, an analyst at HIS Global Insight, said shale gas could undermine the global significance of major energy giants like Russian gas monopoly Gazprom.
British supermajor BP, meanwhile, moved into the U.S. shale market when it took control of Amoco in 1989, expanding its portfolio with a $1.75 billion stake in U.S. gas company Chesapeake Energy in 2008.
Tony Hayward, the chief executive at BP, said shale gas could bring about a sea change in the U.S. energy sector that could potentially percolate across the world.
"It probably transforms the U.S. energy outlook for the next 100 years," he said at the World Economic Forum. "It's yet to be seen if it can be applied globally."