The Strategist

Germany Sets Strict Rules on Fracking

04/01/2015 - 16:56

German government is going to legalize fracking (extracting oil and natural gas from shale plays).

Joshua Doubek
Joshua Doubek
April 1, the Federal Environment Minister of Germany Barbara Hendricks presented a draft law on the use of hydraulic fracturing in Germany. Under the new law, shale gas production will be possible on the territory of the Federal Republic of Germany in 2018.

The adoption of the law is a revolutionary breakthrough in Germany, where the voices of disapproval and criticism have been heard not only from the "green" side, but also from the industry. According to Barbara Hendricks, the law is justified by the need "to ban what was previously allowed." This way, the minister was trying to disguise the main purpose of the law - to give the go-ahead to the beginning of large-scale commercial production of shale oil and gas by fracking from the depths of the territory of the Federal Republic of Germany.

As we already know, the EU countries have been trying to find its own alternative to Russian gas. According to the general manager of the Union of German Industry, fracking could "make an important contribution to the reliability of energy supply" of Germany.
- In order not to become dependent on imports, we must produce its own gas. In the long run it will not work without shale gas, - said the representative of the main associations of Germany industrialists.

According to experts, Germany consumes 90 billion cubic meters of natural gas a year, but has to import most of it. In 2013, the country received a 38 billion cubic meters from Russia. German federal agency for Geodesy and minerals is proceeding from the fact that there are from 0.7 to 2.3 trillion cubic meters of shale gas under the ground in the FRG, maybe even more. According to experts, this will be enough for not more than 10 years.

Environmental associations and the German government are ambiguous evaluating the risk of fracking. Secretary-General of the German Society of Nature Protection points to "unforeseen risks for nature and the environment." Party "Alliance ‘90 / Green" and the Left Party demand total ban of shale gas in Germany. They point to the possible negative consequences such as contamination of drinking water, a large amount of toxic waste and the threat of earthquakes.

The law will specify the rules for shale gas. Thus, fracking method should be limited to such an extent that, according to the minister, "any danger not to come to people and the environment." The draft law clearly prohibits drilling at a depth of less than three thousand meters and in "sensitive" areas. Among other things, minimum distance from the production site to residential areas, buildings and conservation areas is also determined, as well as waste disposal is regulated. The draft law also establishes the right of corporate responsibility for damages.

Therefore, it is not surprising that chief executive officer of the Union of German industry made a critical statement immediately after the submission of the draft law. He called the resolution of shale gas in Germany "a positive signal", but he added that "all the requirements exposed are completely exaggerated."

Many MPs from all four parties represented in the Bundestag are skeptical considering the draft law and are going to prevent its adoption. At the fraction of the CDU / CSU, the leader of which is Angela Merkel, more than a hundred deputies have already announced that they are categorically against the law.

In 2013, the first attempt to adopt such a law had failed due to the fact that the members of the Bundestag from CSU did not see any strict regulations to protect water resources.