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Eastern Europe



Estonia lies on the northwestern part of the East European platform (the Baltic Shield).

Without suitable sedimentary basins, Globalshift regards the country as having no oil and gas potential onshore or offshore. However, Estonia does produce oils retorted from oil shales.

The oil shale industry - in Estonia is the most developed in the world. Graptolitic argillite is a marine black shale deposited during the Early Ordovician. Kukersite is a light-brown marine Late Ordovician oil shale. Both form the Baltic Oil Shale Basin in eastern Estonia from which the shales are mined.


A few onshore exploration wells have been drilled intermittently since the 1950s but otherwise Estonia has no history of drilling or conventional oil and gas production.

Oil shale - use in industry commenced in 1916 and production of shale oil began in 1921. Oil shales were first used to generate electrical power in 1924.

After World War II, Estonian oil shale gas was also used in Saint Petersburg and in northern cities in Estonia as a substitute for natural gas.

Large oil shale-fired power stations were eventually constructed and extraction peaked in 1980. Demand then reduced that with the advent of nuclear power in the Soviet Union, followed by the break-up of the communist regime.

Oil shale mining started to increase again at the beginning of the 21st century as the global oil price rose.

Around 70% of mined oil shale is used for electricity generation, accounting for about 85% of Estonia's total electricity production. A small proportion of the mined oil shale is also used to produce shale oil which makes Estonia the second largest shale oil producer in the world after China. In addition, oil shale and its products are used in Estonia for district heating and as a feedstock material for the cement industry.

The industry is environmentally hazardous. In 2012, the industry produced about 70% of Estonia's ordinary waste, 82% of its hazardous waste, and more than 70% of its greenhouse gas emissions. Activities lower groundwater levels, and spoil water quality. Water pumped from the mines and used by oil shale-fired power stations has exceeded 90% of all water used in Estonia.

The National Development Plan for the Utilisation of Oil Shale 2008–2015 prioritised oil shale as a resource for ensuring Estonia's electricity supply and energy security. However, the share of oil shale in the country’s electricity and heat production is now set to decrease due to the European Union's climate policy and the local environmental impact.

Estonia needs to diversify the national energy balance and has begun to import LNG. Apart from oils manufactured by its (now declining) shale oil industry Globalshift forecasts no oil or gas production from the country in the short or medium term.

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Estonia Datafiles

Excel files - histories and forecasts of production and wells in any category for all countries and regions