September 10th, 2012 by European Commission
Potential shale gas extraction has become a topical issue in Europe, attracting the interest of several market players and giving rise to a number of public concerns.
The studies look at the potential effects of these fuels on energy markets, the potential climate impact of shale gas production, and the potential risks shale gas developments and associated hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) may present to human health and the environment.
The study on energy market impacts shows that unconventional gas developments in the US have led to greater Liquefied Natural Gas supplies becoming available at global level, indirectly influencing EU gas prices.
Drawing on the US experience and reviewing potential EU resources, it suggests that under a best case scenario, future shale gas production in Europe could help the EU maintain energy import dependency at around 60 %.
It also reveals sometimes considerable uncertainty about recoverable volumes, technological developments, public acceptance and access to land and markets.
The study on climate impacts shows that shale gas produced in the EU causes more Green House Gas (GHG) emissions than conventional natural gas produced in the EU, but – if well managed – less than imported gas from outside the EU, be it via pipeline or by LNG due to the impacts on emissions from long-distance gas transport.
he study on environmental impacts shows that extracting shale gas generally imposes a larger environmental footprint than conventional gas development.
Risks of surface and ground water contamination, water resource depletion, air and noise emissions, land take, disturbance to biodiversity and impacts related to traffic are deemed to be high in the case of cumulative projects.
A considerable number of questions relating to legislation and regulation have been identified, implying the need for an appropriate framework to enable a sustainable shale gas extraction in Europe.
The Commission remains neutral as regards Member States decisions’ concerning their energy mix.
It will oversee compliance with EU legal requirements, and ensure that an appropriate framework to enable sustainable shale gas extraction is in place.
EU policy objectives towards a decarbonised and resource-efficient economy remain a key priority, together with EU commitments towards improving energy efficiency and further developing renewable energy sources.
The studies published on 7 September 2012 will inform ongoing work examining the need for a risk management framework for shale gas developments in Europe and, if necessary, the form it might take.
Discussions will also be held with the Member States and a stakeholders’ (internet) consultation will be launched. The three studies can be accessed via the European Commission Energy Studies website.