Putin urges Russia to keep eye on shale gas revolution

Russian President Vladimir Putin urged his government Thursday to be "attentive" about the potential of shale gas production after the head of energy giant Gazprom denied that an alternative fuel revolution was under way around the world.

Putin told a marathon question and answer session televised live across the nation that there was a chance that Russia had "overslept" the new energy craze now sweeping North America and denting Gazprom's demand.

His comments came after the state gas firm's chief Alexei Miller told state media last month that the "shale revolution" was "a bubble" that would burst soon and that Gazprom did not intend to shift its production strategy in the years to come.

"As to whether Gazprom overslept the shale revolution or not, this is a difficult question that has no answer yet," Putin said in response to a critical question about Miller's remarks.

Putin argued that Russia had enough natural gas "for now" to keep up the pipeline production that Gazprom has been selling to European clients and hopes to start exporting to China in greater quantities.

He also noted the "enormous" environmental costs from such projects.

But Putin directly contradicted Miller by arguing that it was time for Russia to look at the shale option -- especially considering the amount of the necessary rock formations found by scientists across the vast country.

"This does not mean that we have completely rejected shale gas. Even international experts who study this issue say that Russia has enormous prospects in producing shale gas," said Putin.

"I do not think that we have overslept anything, but we do have to be as attentive as possible -- here you are absolutely right."

Russia relies heavily on its energy exports and is the world's largest exporters of both oil and gas.

But Gazprom's production has been steadily declining because of economic woes in Europe and attempts by EU nations to diversify their imports strategy.