Commenting on the publication by the European Commission of non-binding guidelines for shale gas exploitation last week, Chris Faulkner, chief executive of Breitling Energy Corporation and regarded by the US media as the ‘Frack Master’, said:
“This is great news for the emerging shale gas industries in Europe, especially in Poland and the UK, as there was a danger that European politicians were listening to the scaremongering from various parties and were looking to introduce burdensome regulation which would have effectively smothered these emerging industries. “As we have seen in the US, a sensible regulatory framework effectively enforced will allow fracking to be deployed and the economies of Europe to benefit from these new-found natural resources.”
Chris Faulkner did question the Commission’s prediction that the EU will not become self-sufficient in natural gas. In a “best-case scenario”, it said, shale gas would hold approximate 3% of the energy mix in Europe by 2030. Chris said:
“If we look at what happened in the US in ten years, the Commission has to realize that this prediction is both unrealistic and unambitious – if there is a will there will be a way. “The Commission, governments and the industry itself needs to do more to allay fears about the fracking process, and appreciate the benefits that shale gas can bring to Europe. It is not a panacea, more a medium-term intermediate step between coal and the increased use of renewables, and in some cases nuclear, and an as yet undiscovered energy source for the future.”
The new shale gas rules are intended to complement existing EU legislation, which Environment commissioner, Janez Potocnik, suggested last year may not be adequate, would cover issues such as strategic environmental assessment and planning, underground risk assessment, well integrity, baseline reporting and operational monitoring, capture of methane emissions and disclosure of chemicals used in each well.
The Commission has advised member states to prepare a strategic environmental assessment before drilling – explicitly studying suitability of geological formations. States should also provide opportunity for public participation and develop uniform rules for issuing permits. Well operators should be obliged to develop project-specific water management plans, while manufacturers, importers and downstream users of chemicals used in fracking should declare the intended application when complying with REACH rules.
Member states must transpose the principles into their own law within six months of the document’s publication and also inform the Commission annually about measures taken. The first reports are due in December 2014. The EU authority – which reserves for itself the right to “propose further legal clarification where necessary – said it will monitor application of the Recommendation and make available a scoreboard for comparison. In a review after 18 months, the Commission is to decide whether there is a need for binding legislation.