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Last month the German Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources (BGR), Germany’s central geo-scientific authority, published a new report on shale gas in Germany (available in German only). It found that developing the country’s shale gas reserves through hydraulic fracturing would not pose a threat to drinking water resources.

The BGR, whose role is to advise the Federal Government, carried out this in-depth study which also looks into Germany’s estimated reserves. Its authors concluded that hydraulic fracturing can be controlled and undertaken without harm to the environment. They stressed that exploration of unconventional resources can be conducted without damaging drinking water supplies or inducing seismic events, provided that relevant regulations are in place and technical standards closely followed.

Germany is facing some critical energy challenges. Its ambitious climate change objectives need to be balanced with the need for an affordable, reliable and secure energy supply. However, in recent years it has become ever more dependent on imported energy, with energy dependency at its highest in the last 20 years, 10% higher than the EU average.[1] While renewables are playing an increasing role in its energy mix, Germany still needs alternative energy sources to meet high levels of demand.

In an interview with Reuters, Stefan Ladage, the lead author of the study, noted that hydraulic fracturing could help Germany redress domestic production of natural gas: “Gas production from domestic resources has been falling for 10 years. Using shale gas resources in Germany primarily bears the potential of mitigating part of the ongoing decline.”

Since estimated shale gas reserves could potentially provide a significant percentage of the country’s annual gas demand for many years to come, shale gas could be the domestic, lower-carbon intensive energy source that Germany desperately needs to work alongside renewables and meet demand.[2]

The Bundestag (parliament) is currently debating how shale gas should be regulated in Germany, and could reach a conclusion by July. Considering the significant role shale gas could play in Germany’s future energy mix, science needs to play a central role in this debate. This report is therefore extremely significant and timely.

[1] http://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/documents/2995521/6614030/8-09022015-AP-EN.pdf/4f054a0a-7e59-439f-b184-1c1d05ea2f96

[2] http://www.bgr.bund.de/DE/Themen/Energie/Downloads/Abschlussbericht_13MB_Schieferoelgaspotenzial_Deutschland_2016.html

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