Shale gas production environmentally safe – Germany study concludes

Fracking sign
Source: DollarPhotoClub

Germany – the largest energy consumer in Europe and the seventh-largest in the world* – holds between 0.32 trillion and 2.03 trillion cubic metres of recoverable shale gas, according to a recent estimate by geologists at the Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources (BGR).

This is slightly less than between 0.7 trillion and 2.3 trillion cbm estimated by BGR in 2012, but outweighs the 0.11 trillion cbm of conventionally available gas. When it comes to shale oil resources, these are relatively small at 13 to 164 million tonnes – compared to Germany’s 31 million tonnes of conventional oil reserves.

More importantly, the study has found that it is possible to tap these unconventional reserves without damaging drinking water reservoirs.

“We found that the injected fluids did not move upwards into layers carrying drinking-water,” said Stefan Ladage, lead author of the BGR study, which was published in Germany last week.

This is potentially significant as German lawmakers have been debating whether to allow hydraulic fracturing to access the country’s unconventional resources. German public opinion seems to be to a large degree against hydraulic fracturing on the grounds that it is likely to harm the environment. Germany is also committed to renvewable energy and many believe that fossil fuels should be totally abandoned in favour of “greener” options.

This sentiment is not necessarily reflected in the attitude of energy companies, who point to Germany’s heavy reliance on imports and the necessity to reduce its dependence on foreign energy supplies.

Germany’s imports account for about 90 percent of total supply, and most imports come from three countries: Russia (39 percent of total imports in 2014), Norway (33 percent) and the Netherlands (24 percent), according to the German Federal Office for Economic Affairs and Export Control (BAFA).

Despite this dependance on foreign imports, federal environment Minister Barbara Hendricks said last week she did not see much scope for fracking.

“I don’t think it will be economically rewarding,” she told a conference.

Source: *BP Statistical Review of World Energy for 2014, also: Reuters, EIA.

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