Germany considers lifting a moratorium on fracking

Reichstag, Germany
Source: DollarPhotoClub

Germany’s shale resources, estimated at about 17tln cubic feet (tcf) of gas and 700mln barrels of oil, might soon be accessible to exploration companies. In the wake of the Russian-Ukrainian crisis the German Government is considering lifting its 2010 moratorium on fracking.

With domestic production dwindling, and the increasing dependence on energy imports from Russia, the German Government is responding to pressures from industry and consumers to develop new sources of fuel.

“We would welcome the establishment of a reliable legal framework and clearly defined rules for gas production with hydraulic fracturing in Germany,” the chemical company BASF said on Thursday.

Hydraulic fracturing is a controversial method of obtaining oil and gas from tight rock formations, by which large amounts of water, sand, and chemicals are pumped at very high pressure to fracture the rock and release hydrocarbons. As of 2010 fracking has been banned even for extraction of conventional gas deposits.

Opposition to fracking is very strong in Germany but with the country’s decision to abandon nuclear power it is clear that it will have to reach for new energy sources. The expectation is, however, that these sources will be clean and environmentally-responsible. This is why, the WEG oil and gas industry group has announced that it is researching environmentally-friendly fracking substances which would rapidly and completely decompose after use.

“For years, we’ve been extracting gas in Germany safely and with respect for the environment” said Hartmut Pick, WEG spokesman.

Mr Pick also pointed out that in the context of Germany’s commitment to abandon nuclear power by 2022 and the need to reduce CO2 emissions, the demand for natural gas will increase in the coming years.

Germany is currently looking for unconventional gas in areas covering 97 thousand square kilometres. This search, however, is often hindered by protesters who fear the contamination of drinking water and other environmental damage.

If Germany opens up the avenues to the exploration of shale resources it will be the second country in Western Europe, after the UK, to do so. The move might influence other countries, such as France, to follow suit. Fracking is currently banned in France, although, at 137 tcf of gas and 4.7bn barrels of oil, the country has far greater shale deposits than Germany.

Other European countries committed to shale gas exploration are: Poland, Lithuania, Romania, and Ukraine – although in the latter case, the current military unrest makes the exploration difficult.

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