German parliament passed bill on hydraulic fracturing



Hydraulic fracturing for shale gas and shale oil banned

After years of debate, the German parliament has passed regulations about hydraulic fracturing. The law bans hydraulic fracturing for the production of shale gas as well as shale oil. In contrast to a draft law proposed one year ago which allowed hydraulic fracturing for shale gas and shale oil in formations deeper than 3.000 m, exploration for unconventionals is now completely banned. 

Sole exemptions are a maximum of four test drillings for hydraulic fracturing in shales. The purpose of these tests is to assess the environmental impact of unconventional hydraulic fracturing. The German federal state (Bundesland) in which any test site is planned will have to give or deny permission. Experts from public authorities and research institutions will monitor the test sites and will provide yearly reports to the German Bundestag, which will, in 2021, reassess whether the ban of unconventional hydraulic fracturing should continue. To account for transparency, the reports of the expert commission will be published in the internet.

Conventional hydraulic fracturing allowed

Conventional hydraulic fracturing in sandstone for the production of tight gas, as performed for decades in German natural gas fields, may continue. However, the new regulation provides stringent conditions for the application of a technique which was much less regulated before: 

  • An environmental impact assessment is compulsory.
  • Only fracturing fluids that are non-hazardous or low hazardous to water may be used.
  • In the case of damages due to seismic events, a reversal of evidence is provided: in case of doubt, the companies will have to prove that damage is not caused by hydraulic fracturing activities. 
  • No hydraulic fracturing in water protection areas, in catchment areas of lakes which are used for public water supply and catchment areas of mineral springs and wells that supply water for the production of food, including beverages. 

The new regulation touches upon German water law and German mining law. Both laws will be amended, the respective texts are found here (water law) and here (mining law).

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German parliament passed bill on hydraulic fracturing