Ukraine's shale gas development looks promising and the alternative gas may change the eastern European country's energy picture, an expert said Monday, according to Xinhua.

Andrew Chubik, executive director of the Kiev-bases analytical center Strategy XXI, told Xinhua that Ukraine, which is believed to have Europe's third-largest shale gas reserves of 1.2 trillion cubic meters, may produce up to 15 billion cubic meters of unconventional gas annually.

"Ukraine may produce from 7 to 15 billion cubic meters of shale gas per year. It is a great figure given Ukraine's current annual natural gas output of 20 billion cubic meters," Chubik said.

The country would likely launch shale gas production on an industrial scale in 2022, the expert said, adding that unconventional gas may be a long-term solution to Ukraine's energy security issues.

"The escalation of shale gas development may eliminate the need of gas imports and thus reduce gas price for households and commercial clients," Chubik said.

Although shale gas extraction is an opportunity for Ukraine to obtain its energy independence, it may bring a lot of environmental threats.

Fracking, a technology that involves injecting water and chemicals to break rock formations and extract shale gas, can cause minor earthquakes and contaminate underground water supplies and air, opponents say.

"Of course, shale gas extraction has environmental risks, just as production of other hydrocarbons. The greatest environmental risk is opaque work in this area. If gas companies, the government and the public will control production, the risks are minimal," Chubik said.

Kiev signed a major shale gas deal with Royal Dutch Shell in January to extract gas trapped underground in Ukraine's eastern Yuzovska area.