Germany plans to ban fracking for seven years

STOP Fracking. Keyboard
Source: DollarPhotoClub

German Government has agreed on stricter rules for conditional execution of hydraulic fracturing during the extraction of hydrocarbons – Deutche Welle reported today. The new regulations will apply until 2021 when “the appropriateness of the ban will be reviewed.”

Angela Merkel’s Government plans to introduce new regulations governing hydraulic fracturing at the end of this year. Last week, the environment minister Barbara Hendricks and the minister for economics and energy Sigmar Gabriel announced the terms of issuing conditional permits for hydraulic fracturing.

“There won’t be fracking of shale-gas and coal gas for economic reasons in the foreseeable future,” says a policy paper, which they recently published together, promising the strictest rules that have ever existed in the area of fracking.

The opposition, however, is not convinced, pointing to loopholes in the proposed legislation. The new fracking ban only applies at a depth shallower than 3000 meters and the testing of technology is permitted if the fracking liquid won’t endanger the groundwater.

The chairman of the Greens’ parliamentary group, Oliver Krischer, has called the new regulations a “fracking enabling law,” while Hubertus Zdebel – a member of the parliamentarian committee for environment, conservation, construction and reactor safety – called it “window dressing”. “They want to enforce a regulation which mostly allows fracking under the guise of an alleged ban,” he added.

The amounts of shale gas deposits in Germany are not known for certain. The Federal Environment Agency is estimating 1.3 trillion cubic meters, while the Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources is estimating 2.3 trillion cubic meters. With this amount Germany’s gas supplies would be covered for 13 to 27 years.

Following the country’s decision to abandon nuclear power, Germany increased its dependence on Russian gas. Also, German manufacturers, especially in the petrochemical industry, find it difficult to compete with American counterparts who benefit from very low-priced feedstocks.

This is why German businesses from the Federation of German Industries (BDI) are hoping that pilot projects will prove that fracking is possible without substantial damage to the environment.

“At the moment, we don’t know everything about deposits and the extraction process. But knowledge won’t be gained by waiting and bans. I’m convinced that we now need responsible pilot projects,” wrote BDI President Ulrich Grillo in a guest article for the “Rheinische Post” newspaper. “It’s about time that politics gives technological progress in a responsible framework a chance. Pilot projects, accompanied by both science and the public, will deliver new knowledge and the basis for a clever and final decision.”

Meanwhile, Günther Oettinger – European Commissioner for Energy and a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives – believes that Germany should keep its options open. “I estimate that Europe has the potential to secure about a tenth of our needs this way in the long term” he told the BZ am Sonntag newspaper.

The new law also permits fracking for so-called tight gas, which is found in low porosity silt or sand areas, as they are typically 3,000 to 5,000 metres deep. Shale formations are between 1,000 and 2,500 metres deep. Germany has been extracting tight gas since the 1960s.

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