EU Energy Chief Tells Germany to Keep Fracking Options Open

07.07.2014 -

Europe could eventually get a tenth of its power needs from shale gas if it can overcome reservations such as those voiced in recommendations from two German cabinet ministers, a German newspaper quotes EU energy commissioner Günther Oettinger as saying.

Oettinger, a German citizen and a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic party, told the BZ am Sonntag newspaper that Germany should keep its options open. In his view, leveraging shale gas would help Europe rely less on energy imports at a time of tension with its major gas supplier Russia.

Companies including ExxonMobil and BASF's oil and gas arm Wintershall have pushed to explore possibilities for fracking in Germany.

The two cabinet members responsible for preparing legislation on fracking due this year, economics minister Sigmar Gabriel and environment minister Barbara Hendricks, both Social Democrats, have circulated proposed guidelines for fracking among members of parliament ahead of presenting their plans to the cabinet.

The ministers propose banning fracking of deposits less than 3,000 metres below the surface via tougher laws protecting the quality of water. Test drilling - which BASF has called for - would be allowed, and the practice of drilling for tight gas also could be continued under the envisaged rules.

To exclude the possibility of fracking chemicals contaminating drinking water, the ministers propose requiring comprehensive environmental tests. In nature protection areas and near drinking water reservoirs, drilling would be banned under the proposals.

Germany's Federal Institute for Geosciences (BGR) two years ago put the country's shale gas potential at 0.7- 2.3 trillion cbm.