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Germany plans to adopt anti-shale fracking rules

07.07.2014  | 

Germany has shale gas reserves for about 10 years of full supply and “maybe much more than that,” said Kurt Bock, CEO of BASF, the world’s biggest chemical maker.



Germany plans to adopt regulation that will rule out shale fracking for the foreseeable future.

The government wants to ban hydraulic fracturing in shale rocks and coal beds at depths less than 3 kilometers (1.8 miles) and prohibit all types of fracking in water protection areas, according to Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel and Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks. 

The government will start drafting legislation and seek to adopt it in the second half, Hendricks told reporters in Berlin. The rules will be re-evaluated in 2021.

Fracking is unpopular in Germany even as Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government is keen to develop domestic energy sources as it closes nuclear plants by 2022. While companies including ExxonMobil have drilled test wells into unconventional gas reservoirs in Germany to emulate the US shale-gas boom, little headway has been made because of public opposition.

The new rules, if adopted, would be “the strictest that ever existed in this respect,” the ministers said in a joint letter to the Social Democrats. “Fracking for shale and coal bed gas for economic reasons won’t be possible in Germany for the foreseeable future.”

Fracking for tight gas, which has been done in Germany since the 1960s, will remain allowed under stricter conditions for frack fluids, the ministers said. Fracking will be allowed for scientific purposes if the fluids aren’t harmful to water supplies, it said.

Not Far Enough

The rules don’t go far enough and leave “loopholes” to allow fracking at a later stage, said Julia Verlinden, energy spokeswoman for the opposition Green Party.

“If you want to prevent fracking, you don’t need science projects,” she said. “The risk to harm our ground and drinking water supplies with fracking doesn’t justify the short-term drilling for comparably little gas.”

Europe is divided into different camps on fracking, which involves drilling hundreds of wells and cracking rocks with a high-pressure mixture of water, sand and chemicals to unlock gas or oil from impermeable stone. It’s backed by nations including the UK, Poland and Spain and opposed in countries such as France and Germany.

The oil and gas industry says fracking should be at least tested to keep the door open to a technology that may redraw the energy map across Europe by reducing reliance on Russia. Germany has shale gas reserves for about 10 years of full supply and “maybe much more than that,” Kurt Bock, the CEO of the world’s biggest chemical maker BASF, said at a conference in Berlin.

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Richard W. Goodwin

Fracking Bans are not justified
The state of the technology of Hydraulic fracturing or fracking shows that it can be properly applied to reduce environmental risks and damages. Both the ex-Mayor of New York City and the President of the Environmental Defense Fund agree that fracking can be conducted properly by approaching the technology using “data acquisition and management problem (solving)” techniques (1). Their approach should be integrated with the application of sound engineering principles. My white paper “Environmental Perspective Hydraulic Fracturing” (2) accepted by USEPA (4/5/14) for their Scientific Advisory Board [SAB] Hydraulic Fracturing Research Advisory Panel [I have been involved with this SAB for over one year] demonstrates that cost-effective engineering applications have improved hydraulic fracturing performance.
Reduce Methane Emissions - By plugging leaks in compressors and pipes, producers can cut emissions of methane, a potent heat-trapping gas, according to a report [March 2014] by the Environmental Defense Fund and ICF International Inc., a consultancy specializing in energy and the environment. The $2.2 billion cost would be offset over time by the sale of captured gas, the study estimates. At approximately $10MM per well, the industry can afford to spread $2.2B over the costs of new and existing wells. The industry is expected to invest trillions of $US over the next several years in unconventional oil and gas development.
Cement Well/Build Better Wells and Get Better Data - The USEPA has established a Scientific Advisory Board to Review Methodology and Technology mitigating effect of fracking on water quality. Also ASTM, API etc. have established standard setting committees for drilling [e.g. well cementing], fracking, production water options. During the next two years the efforts of experienced participants should change the way that fracking operations are implemented, managed and regulated. The SAB’s work will continue until 2015 – both existing and grass-roots drilling projects will be monitored.
Recycling Wastewater - Recycling frac wastewaters would not only save operators money and secure ‘fast track’ permits, but reuse would avoid deep well injection – removing a high potential contributing factor to localized earthquakes. Such articles eliminate much of the uncertainties about hydraulic fracturing – creating a more reasonable tone to improve the process without creating fear of the unknown.

(1) Bloomberg, M.R. and Krupp, F.’ “The Right Way to Develop Shale Gas”; The Wall Street Journal; 4/30/14
(2) http://yosemite.epa.gov/sab/sabproduct.nsf/D3AE85DC5A40EEC885257CB3004E03F8/$File/Public+comments+submitted+by+Goodwin,+Richard-4-4-14.pdf
Richard W. Goodwin West Palm Beach FL

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