Oettinger tells Germany to keep options open on fracking

Günther Oettinger. Lauchringen, 2009. [Bernd Glasstetter/Flickr]

Europe could eventually get a tenth of its power needs via shale gas fracking, if it can overcome reservations such as those voiced in recommendations from two German cabinet ministers, the European Union's energy commissioner was quoted as saying.

Günther Oettinger, a member of Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives, told the BZ am Sonntag newspaper that Germany should keep its options open when EU states such as Britain and Poland appear willing to exploit shale gas.

"I estimate that Europe has the potential to secure about a tenth of our needs this way in the long term," he told the news periodical, according to an excerpt from its Sunday edition, noting that this would help Europe rely less on energy imports at a time of tension with Russia, a major source of gas.

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

The two German cabinet members responsible for preparing legislation on fracking due this year, Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel and Environment Minister Barbara Hendricks, circulated proposed guidelines among members of parliament on Friday.

"Unconventional fracking won't be permitted," said Hendricks, who like Gabriel is from the Social Democrats, junior coalition partners of Merkel's conservatives. They are expected to present their thoughts to the cabinet in coming days.

>> Read: Fracking debate intensifies in Germany

Hendricks was contrasting the new shale gas fracking methods being used in the United States with conventional natural gas exploitation from deep deposits. The ministers propose preventing the fracking of deposits less than 3,000 metres below the surface via tougher laws protecting the quality of water.

Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, involves pumping water and chemicals at high pressure through drill holes to prise open rocks containing gas. Many Germans oppose it due to environmental concerns, in particular fears about the possible contamination of drinking water.

But German industry, worried that competitiveness is being damaged by rising energy costs at home combined with lower prices in the United States due to the fast expansion of fracking there, has become ever keener to exploit shale gas reserves.

Germany's Federal Institute for Geosciences (BGR) two years ago put the country's shale gas potential between 0.7 trillion and 2.3 trillion cubic metres.

Oettinger has previously warned Germany not to dismiss shale gas, arguing the technology would lessen reliance on Russian gas imports and help sustain manufacturing activity.

>> Read: Oettinger advises Germany on fracking, warns of climate overacting

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Mike Parr's picture

Some corrections need to be made to this article and particularly this sentence:

"But German industry, worried that competitiveness is being damaged by rising energy costs at home combined with lower prices in the United States due to the fast expansion of fracking there, has become ever keener to exploit shale gas reserves"

"rising energy costs" - which energy? Electricity? erm.... sorry but wholesale elec costs (for large industrial concerns) have fallen in real terms since 2007. So for electricity costs German industry has become MORE not less competitive mostly due to the impact of RES on elec prices.

In the case of gas - its use is a mix of heating and chemical feedstock. Gas prices in the USA are not homogeneous - the east coast of the USA (& there is industry on the east coast) pay for gas at .... similar prices to Germany.

German industry might be worried about rising costs of energy - but that does not mean that costs are rising.

an european's picture

With shalegas the european Union could gain more than 10% percent of the Russian Gas import !
Why paing if you can do it yourself !
First you have 10% then later you may have 25% and up in sophisticating the technologie at the same time !
That is the right path to go for an be much more less dependent of other money grabber!

Mike Parr's picture

Whilst shale gas has some advantages with respect to energy independence - the disadvantages are less discussed. This article is quite interesting:


& specifically this extract:
"Among the most alarming statistics in Oklahoma is the rise in stronger earthquakes. Between 1990 and 2008, there were never more than three quakes registering a magnitude 3.0 or greater in a single year, according to data from the Oklahoma Geological Survey. In 2013 there were 109, and through June of this year there were 238.
The largest earthquake tied to injection wells was a magnitude 5.7 centered about 50 miles west of Oklahoma City in 2011 that destroyed 14 homes, injured two people and buckled pavement, according to research led by Katie Keranen, an assistant professor of geophysics at Cornell University"

One supposes that if fracking took place in Germany, Mr Oettinger would be willing to see his home destroyed by a fracking induced earthquake ......... was that a "nein" I heard?

an european's picture

I have already read your Article (thank you) and it's highly speculative it it is the source earthquakes ! It could be more about tectonic plates itself -working together stronger or less on this decades !
Anyway we know that merely the Continent is predisposed to natural disaster.