The shale gale will go global, but when?

The shale oil and gas drilling boom, credited with creating jobs and pumping money into state and federal treasuries across the United States, will eventually spread across the globe, executives from several international energy companies told delegates to the IHS CERAWeek conference in Houston Tuesday.

But it won’t happen overnight. And maybe not soon.

They did, however, agree on what country is most likely to be the next to benefit from the unconventional drilling technology: China.

China’s government has set a goal of producing 6.5 billion cubic meters of natural gas by 2015, said Adil Toubia, CEO of the oil and gas division at Siemens Energy.

“That’s very ambitious but likely to be achieved,” he said.

He and other panelists also agreed on the broad areas that will slow the advance of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing technology in other countries, including a lack of infrastructure, the lack of technical know-how and public ownership of land in many countries.

Tomas Garcia Blanco, executive director of Spanish energy company Repsol, offered some general guidelines: Unconventional energy will expand gradually, as the world needs it. Unconventional gas will be developed first, followed by unconventional oil. Unless something new comes up, unconventional energy will be the energy of the 21st century.

Pal Haremo, senior vice president for exploration in global new ventures for Statoil, didn’t disagree. But he said that as the Norwegian oil giant has tried to take the technological knowledge it has gained operating in the U.S. shale fields abroad, it has been unable to identify many basins elsewhere that are equal to or better than those here.

It has found good shale fields in Russia, China and Argentina, Haremo said, but “serious above-surface risks” complicate drilling.

Europe and Australia have smaller, less-rich basins, he said, although the company is pursuing interests there.