Germany said on Monday it has no plans to lift a ban on fracking, following a report in news magazine Der Spiegel that it was considering lowering the hurdles for shale gas extraction to allow test drilling. At present, Germany only plans to allow fracking below a depth of 3,000 metres (yards), to ensure that there is no danger to ground water supplies.
Der Spiegel had reported that this depth boundary would be scrapped. While denying the report, a spokeswoman for the Environment Ministry did not rule out that fracking might one day be allowed in Germany as technology progresses. 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 because they fear possible contamination of drinking water.
The technique has been used in Germany for deep-lying, or “tight” gas, but there has been an effective moratorium on new permits for the last two years, pending new rules. German industry, worried that its competitiveness is being damaged by rising energy costs at home combined with lower prices in the United States due to the expansion of fracking there, has become ever keener to exploit shale.
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.