Germany: Fracking Since 55
Perhaps one of the more eyebrow-raising presentations at London’s 2011 Shale Gas Environmental Summit was that of Germany’s Klaus Sontgerath, head of department, Lower Saxony State Authority for Mining, Energy and Geology.
In his presentation, he illustrated that Germany – one of Europe’s greenest countries - produces more onshore natural gas than any country in Europe apart from the Netherlands.
And “EMPG has been fracking the Damme 3 shale well since 2008 without incident,” he said, to many of the delegates’ surprise. His comment that there had been shale gas exploration in the country by ExxonMobil since 2008 was to the surprise of many in attendance – including shale experts and consultants alike.
Even more surprising was the revelation that in fact, Germany has been fracking since 1955 in the Schleswig-Holstein region and since 1976 in the country’s Lower Saxony region.
However, said Sontgerath, “this is mainly unconventional gas, with tight gas exploration at depths of 4-5000 metres. And up until now, we do not know of any environmental incidents caused by fracking.”
Following Sontgerath’s second revelation inside the space of five minutes, there was an audible gasp from the audience – the majority of whom had no idea that Germany has indeed been involved with fracking for so long, and without incident.
Sontgerath explained that the Lower Saxony State Authority for Mining, Energy and Geology take very seriously all potential environmental impacts and that following the region’s vast experience, nothing will be overlooked.
Quoting Jorg Bode, Lower Saxony’s minister of Economic affairs, Sontgerath said: “There are no higher safety and environmental risks because of hydraulic fracturing,” and that “in Lower Saxony hydraulic fracturing was used 35 years ago for the first time and has been successful in more than 250 projects.”
One of the reason’s Germany has an exemplary record, he said, was due to the regulations in place in order for operators to be granted permits.
“These include precautions against hazards for lives, health and for the protection of physical assets, personal employed and third parties present on the enterprises premises,” he said.
“We also have to prove that dangerous effects to the public are not expected – for example the contamination of groundwater. We therefore have to look at the geological situation around the well and at the integrity of the well.”
Related Reading: Germany's Shale Gas Potential Threatened by Environmental Opposition