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Ministers reach cautious fracking agreement

Published: 26 Feb 2013 13:38 GMT+01:00

Economy Minister Philipp Rösler and Environment Minister Peter Altmaier reached a hard-won agreement on restrictions for using the contentious method to extract natural gas from rock.

"Fracking offers considerable opportunities, but we have to keep the potential effects on the environment in mind," said Rösler on Tuesday.

"That's what we are now implementing. The industry has said it will develop environmentally friendly methods," he added.

Altmaier emphasised that potential risks for citizens would have to be ruled out with careful, rigorous studies into the environmental impact to be conducted at each proposed site.

"Safety and environmental protection have priority over economic interests," the minister said. "It's a signal that we're serious about protecting the environment and

people."

A joint draft proposal from the two ministries released on Tuesday would ban fracking in areas where there are water reserves and mineral springs.

This is a concession to serious public concerns about safety, as well as the environmental and health effects of the technology.

"Domestic oil and gas production will continue to make a substantial contribution to the security of supply and price stability in Germany," as the country has pledged to abandon nuclear energy entirely by 2022, the ministries said.

Estimates put Germany's underground gas reserves at up to 2.3 trillion cubic metres.

With annual consumption of some 86 billion cubic metres "this can be categorised as a very significant source of energy," said the ministries.

"Hydraulic fracturing" or fracking, has unlocked immense gas and oil resources and changed the geopolitics of energy. Since it was developed in 2007 it has been described as the gold rush of the 21st century, creating tens of billions of dollars of revenue and hundreds of thousands of new jobs.

But the technique, which involves injecting a water, sand and chemical mix at high pressure into the ground to create fractures in rocks and rock formations and thus enabling oil or gas to be released, is controversial.

The chemicals used can end up in the water table, creating health and environmental concerns.

Fracking has been banned in France since 2011 but Altmaier promised to introduce legislation in the German parliament on the topic before federal elections on September 22.

AFP/DPA/The Local/jlb

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Your comments about this article

15:34 February 26, 2013 by owlguard
When will governments support Hydro-electric cars? Hydrogen is a renewable fuel source and be produced in commercial quantities anywhere there is natural gas and water available. The by-product is water vapor. Hydor-electric cars and quiet and have been built and run in the USA for several years but the oil industry has the politicians in their pockets.
16:15 February 26, 2013 by aubiechris
Don't do it Germany! Please don't destroy your beautiful country! Just read some of the horror storries in America where residents are having to deal with severly flamable water from their tap!!
17:06 February 26, 2013 by zeddriver
@owlguard

It's not a one way street it's a two way street. As in. The politicians were first begging for money to fund reelection and promising favors in return for said monies. A politician can only be bought if they are for sale.
17:09 February 26, 2013 by berfel
"The chemicals used can end up in the water table, creating health and environmental concerns. "

Oh? WHat sort of chemicals? Hydraulic fracturing is done with water and sand; with a tiny little bit of "wetting agent" - a fancy term for what is essentially dishwashing detergent. Moreover; spills of dishwashing detergent are only likely at the surface. The top part of the bore is lined with an impermiable barrier that not only protects the groundwater, but also saves a huge amount in drilling costs.

Most importantly; the fraccing is far below any aquifers. The oil and gas are below impermeable layers of clay between any aquifer and the reserves trapped in the rocks; otherwise the oil and gas would have percolated into the water anyway.
18:38 February 26, 2013 by Jeffvm
> aubiechris >severly flamable water from their tap!!

Nonsense. That famous clip from the documentary was not the effect of (very deep) hydraulic fracturing, but of other, shallow drilling activity in the area. Don't believe the propaganda.
02:32 February 27, 2013 by kApRock
Actually, hydraulic fracturing has been around for a number of decades. Various chemicals are used when fracking depending upon the drilling company (different chemicals are used depending upon the reservoir rock to facilitate better porosity and permeability). Drilling is done thousands of feet below the surface, far below the fresh water table. The water in the reservoir rock is actuallysalt water. The only way the well water could be released into local aquifers is if the well casing is breached or there is a large surface spill.
23:08 February 28, 2013 by crm114
kApRock wrote "...The only way the well water could be released into local aquifers is if the well casing is breached..." ah you mean something like the Deepwater Horizon spill, you remember that don't you, the largest cock up in the history of the business, the one that most experts lay at the door of a defective "impermeable barrier" the result of ineptitude and cost cutting on the part of the operators. This drilling done thousands of feet below the surface does it not then pass through the water table or am I missing something?
01:41 March 1, 2013 by kApRock
Ah, crm114. The Deepwater Horizon is a completely different situation than the fracking zones. You resort to sensationalism rather than fact. Comment on fracking rather than hysterics.
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