A study presented by the Federal Ministry for the Environment (BMU) and the Federal Environment Agency (UBA) on the controversial fracking technology recommends to introduce strict requirements for fracking and to take a step-by-step approach in order to test the technology in view of the ecological risks involved and the lack of experience and knowledge with regard to fracking.
The fracking technology is used to extract natural gas and oil that lies within a shale rock formation deep beneath the earth’s surface. It can lead to contaminations of the ground water, BMU/UBA say, pointing out that concerns and uncertainties exist in particular with regard to the chemicals injected into the shale rock to break it open and with regard to the disposal of the flowback.
The experts advise against a large scale use of fracking in the exploitation of unconventional gas in Germany (regarding shale gas potential in Germany, please see a recent BGR study). Instead they recommend to take a step-by-step approach, during which the use of the fracking technology in individual projects is closely monitored by the competent public authorities and scientists. Regarding the chemicals involved, the experts demand wide-ranging transparency and verification if the replacement of substances of high concern is possible.
The study also proposes amendments of the relevant mining and administrative laws. Firstly, an environmental impact assessment should be made mandatory for drilling involving fracking technology to enhance the participation of persons affected and the general public. Secondly, the study advises to strengthen the competences of the Environment Ministry or one of its subordinate agencies (UBA is one such agency) to increase environmental protection, e.g. regarding water protection.
Environment Minister Altmaier welcomed the study. The risks for ground water had been clearly pointed out, he said. Before the fracking technology was used, all concerns had to be addressed. The suggestions made by the authors of the study would be reviewed carefully and discussed with all parties concerned, he said.