Shale gas and hydraulic fracturing: EU member states* response

By Dr. Badr Zerhdoud
Platform for the International Water
Law (University of Geneva)
IUCN Academy-2014 Tarragona Colloquium
Many European states are more and more willing
to produce shale gas (the US is now having access
to a cheaper source of energy) to decrease its heavy
dependency on imports (Russian gas for instance).
Therefore, the European experience was until now
mainly of low-volume hydraulic fracturing in
conventional and tight gas reservoirs
The environmental concern is at the very origin of
a cautious approach with respect to this technique
in most countries
Law n° 2011-835 was adopted on 13 July, 2011
and entered into force on 14 July, 2011. This
law forbids “the exploration and exploitation of
liquid or gaseous hydrocarbons through hydraulic
fracturing” and enables the Government to
abrogate “research permits which include projects
The article 2 of the Law N° 2011-835 established a
Commission in order to deliver an opinion on the
conditions of implementation of research-oriented
experimentations. In the context of prohibition, this
commission is the only body that could allow an
operator to use HF, for the sake of “scientific research”.
For the permits granted before the law, Article 3
further provides that if such a report states the
operator will or might use HF, the permit will then be
France is the first country in the world to officially ban
the use of HF in exploration and mining research and
projects. Français Hollande indicated that this ban will
remain in place throughout his presidential term.
The Federal Government of Germany was until
recently discussing whether shale gas production
and the associated application of hydraulic
fracturing operations should be permitted in
Germany and if so, under which conditions.
A Study of the Federal Ministry for the
Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear
Safety (BMU) and the Federal Environmental
Agency (UBA) on the environmental impact of
shale gas development were presented in August
The study called for a very careful and limited
exploration of shale gas in Germany that is
accompanied by intensive administrative and scientific
supervision by environmental authorities, including:
An environmental impact assessment is required for any shale
gas activity that includes hydraulic fracturing
the availability of a wide range of information
the participation of the public
The German Minister of Economy (Sigmar
Gabriel) is ready to submit to the Bundestag a
Government’s proposal to regulate shale gas
exploitation before this summer break.
(cf New York Times, June, 5th 2014,
Traditionally, Spain imports 99% of its oil and gas
Discovery of significant offshore deposits, and
prospects for fracking in Cantabria (North), Canary
and Balearic Islands (boost by 35% of demands for
prospection since 2012)
Tension between Madrid and some regions (Aragon,
Asturias, Basque Country and Cantabria) which
adopted prohibition on shale gas: environmental
concerns were here exacerbated by some earthquakes
in the Valencia coast caused by a gas storage facility
The Law 34/1998 1998 on oil and gas exploration was
changed to specifically include the water-intensive
drilling technique
Law 21/13 (9th December 2013)
It includes a mandatory environmental impact
assessments (EIAs) for all shale gas projects
including exploration. Thus, permits should be granted
by the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Environment
In the light of its massive shale gas reserves that will
smoothly compensate the loss of its conventional gas
ones in the North Sea, the government lifted a
temporary moratorium on shale gas in December 2012
(seismic activity near Cuadrilla’s drilling site in
Blackpool, in the North West of England in April/May
The Royal Society and the Royal Academy of
Engineering concluded that shale gas could be
managed effectively in the UK as long as « operational
best practices are implemented and enforced through
regulation ».
Public Health England’s report into the health impacts
of shale gas concluded that « the risks to public health
from exposure to emissions from shale gas extraction are low
if operations are properly run and regulated »
Creation of the Office of Unconventional Gas
and Oil (OUGO) which aims to:
Make the most of existing natural resources
Ensure local communities benefit from development in
their area (£100.000 per extraction shaft+ 1% of profits)
 Enable development, protecting the environment and
safeguarding the public
 Ensure regulation, including the planning and permitting
processes, is as simple as possible through all phases
(exploration, appraisal, development and full production)
 Ensure policies are in place for safe decommissioning of sites
and high quality restoration of the land
 Source:
Thus, the UK government put in place a
new regulatory framework to encourage
shale gas exploitation:
 tax incentives (30% rate for profits raised
from shale gas instead of 62% for
conventional oil and gas exploitation)
 Ring-fence expenditure supplement
(RFES) which allows the operator to
increase the value of some its financial
losses (around 10% per year)
The government is considering the possibility to
set up Future generations fund (Norway), that
would allow transition to a low carbon economy
(cf. Edward Davey, Secretary of State, for Energy
and Climate Change, 9 September 2013 ).
 Besides,
the UK Onshore Operators Group
(UKOOG) launched guidelines and best practises
related to the shale gas exploration and
Some questions remain open:
Is the Member State or the European Commission
the most appropriate decision making level for the
environmental standards?
Should there be a common framework for
landowners’ remuneration?
To what extent a common European legislation on
environmental issues regarding fracking could foster
competition in a national based development?
A very diverse regulatory framework
regarding shale gas and HF in the European
A need for a European harmonized answer,
through the European Commission, to regulate
the exploration and subsequent production of
shale gas

similar documents