GERMAN lawmakers have passed a motion which bans shale fracking, following years of debate on the issue.
The text does not outlaw conventional drilling for oil and gas which does not involve shale extraction, however, individual case decisions for shale drilling will be left to the local state governments. Only a handful of projects for scientific or non-commercial purposes are expected to meet the conditions.
The German public has not been in favour of fracking, which requires a mixture of water, sand and chemicals blasted underground and high pressures to release shale oil and gas. Fears about its environmental impact, particularly the risk of drinking-water contamination, have led the representatives to act.
Fracking has been largely unregulated in Germany until now. The current coalition government under Angela Merkel has been working for months to draw up the proposed rules to replace the five-year moratorium, introduced in 2011. The coalition put forward a draft text on a fracking ban in 2015, but was mothballed due to strong party divisions on the issue.
While the legislation is indefinite, the German parliament is set to review the ban in 2021 under a compromise reached between the two main parties.
The Greens party has accused the government of rushing through the vote and finds the text lacking. It saysthe text would open the door for shale producers to campaign for immediate reversal in 2021.
A parliamentary chief said the government “had to act” as gas producers like Wintershall and Exxon Mobil had reportedly lost patience with the moratorium and threatened to push ahead with fracking projects that have been on hold during the last five years, and bombard the government with new permission requests.
Before the law was passed, there was no formal legal framework in place that prevented shale companies from carrying out such threats.
During the debate, the industry ran an intense lobbying campaign to keep the option open for fracking technology to be used.
Fracking is banned in France, but popular in the US, which claims to have substantially cut its energy costs.
Catch up on the latest news, views and jobs from The Chemical Engineer. Below are the four latest issues. View a wider selection of the archive from within the Magazine section of this site.