Denmark tells Total to stop drilling for shale one day into exploration

Total logo against blue sky
Source: WikiCommons, Laurent Vincenti.

The Danish Energy Agency (Energistyrelsen) has stopped the French energy giant Total from carrying out shale gas exploration in northern Jutland just one day after the work began. The reason: the drilling company used a chemical that was not approved as part of the local authorities’ environmental impact assessment (EIA).

“They used a product that was not part of those authorised” for the procedure, Ture Falbe-Hansen, a Danish Energy Agency spokesman told AFP.

“We have emphasised that the conditions stated in the drilling permit must be respected,” said a director of the Danish Energy Agency, Martin Hansen, in a statement after a meeting with Total.

“We have also asked for an account of the sequence of events that occurred,” he added.

This is a very unfortunate development for a company which had to overcome significant opposition from environmentalist organisations to have the exploration plan approved last June. Now it seems that any vote of confidence the company received has been all but squandered.

“This makes me really angry,” Anders Brandt Sorensen, the head of the municipality’s planning and environment committee, told local radio broadcaster DR Nordjylland. “We will not tolerate this kind of violation of our environmental regulations,” adding that from now on they will keep an event closer eye on Total’s operations.

“When we feel our confidence has been so severely tested, we simply need to be even more vigilant about keeping an eye on Total,” he said.

The contentious ingredient, called “NullFoam” has not been tested and therefore not cleared for use, The Energy Ministry ruled.

“Whether or not Null Foam proves to be harmful to the environment, we will maintain even tighter controls should drilling resume,” said Sorensen.

However, Henrik Nicolaisen, who is supervising the drilling project for Total, said the chemical was not illegal and was left off the initial list of products used at the site “because [Total] did not expect it would be a problem” as the agent was used to protect the workers.

“We have been in dialogue with both the municipality and the Danish Energy Agency since February and we felt that we had a common understanding that the substance could be used,” he told public broadcaster DR.

The Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland estimates Denmark’s shale gas potential to be the fourth largest in Europe at 644 billion cubic metres.

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