A gas flare burns at a fracking site in rural Bradford County, Pennsylvania in this January 9, 2012 file photograph. Photo: Reuters/Les Stone

London - With its voracious appetite for energy and a desire to be less reliant on imports, the US became the first country to exploit the potential of fracking.

In 1996 it produced just 0.3 trillion cubic feet of shale gas. But by 2011, that figure had leapt to 7.8 trillion, allowing America to transform itself from an importer to a net exporter of gas.

Shale gas reserves are plentiful and widespread across much of the globe, but until now have been largely inaccessible.

In China, explorable shale gas reserves are estimated at 886 trillion cubic feet, enough to supply the nation’s needs for two centuries.

In Europe, Poland has the largest shale gas reserves, followed by France and Norway. Poland, which is highly reliant on Russian imports, has drilled 34 exploration wells this year – but France has banned fracking because of safety and environmental fears.

In Australia environmental fears have led farmers and green groups to form an unlikely alliance against fracking, leading to moratoriums in some states. - Daily Mail