Shale Gas not in Germany's Near Term Plans
The EU’s Energy Commissioner has appealed to Germany to keep its options open for the development of its shale gas reserves.
Guenther Oettinger made the comments following the statement Friday by Germany’s Environment and Economic Ministers, that fracking for shale and coal bed gas for economic reasons won’t be possible for the foreseeable future.
Concerns over the risks to ground water will see the government introduces regulations which would effectively ban hydraulic fracturing for unconventional gases for the next seven years.
“Protecting drinking water and health has the highest value for us," said Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks.
Hendricks, together with Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel, said that the proposed regulations would be “the strictest that ever existed in this respect.”
The ban on hydraulic fracturing will only apply to drilling operations at depths less than 3,000 meters, but prohibits all types of fracking in water protected areas.
Fracking has been used in Germany including by Wintershall and Exxon Mobil, since 1955 in the Schleswig-Holstein region and since 1976 in the country’s Lower Saxony region. This practice will allowed to be continued, but the government will tighten rules aimed at preventing water contamination from fluids released during the controversial process.
European industry has been calling for rapid shale development as a response to concerns that European competitiveness is being impacted by high domestic energy prices and the impact of the shale gas revolution in the United States.
The recent Ukraine crisis has also allowed proponents to link shale gas to energy security and as an alternative to Russian piped gas.
However, environmentalists are angered that fracking will be allowed for scientific purposes if the fluids aren’t harmful to water supplies. According to Julia Verlinden, energy spokeswoman for the opposition Green Party, the proposed rules don’t go far enough and leave “loopholes” to allow fracking at a later stage.
Germany's Federal Institute for Geosciences (BGR) has estimated the country's shale gas potential between 0.7 trillion and 2.3 trillion cubic meters, which at the upper end would cover demand for 27 years.
The government said that it would re-evaluate the proposed rules in 2021.