Natural gas is an important resource for Europe, and the region has witnessed a steady rise in its natural gas demand over many years, with consumption currently double domestic production, according to a new report by natural resources experts GlobalData. The new report contends, however, that shale gas development activities are facing continued resistance in Europe, due to environmental concerns regarding hydraulic fracturing or ‘fracking’.
Shale gas extraction requires huge amounts of water mixed with chemicals, and has previously been claimed to cause groundwater contamination, resulting in drinking and surface water contamination due to unsafe disposal of chemical-laced water. The use of huge quantities of water in fracking has also been cited as a cause of erosion and damage to the natural landscape. Fracking has even been blamed by some for seismic disturbances – for instance, an earthquake in the UK was alleged to be caused by fracking for shale gas carried out by Cuadrilla Resources, a key energy company.
Rising concerns have been seen through protests carried out across Europe against fracking, and if the situation worsens this could be a significant threat for development of shale gas in Europe. Several countries in Europe have already enforced moratoriums on fracking, and issues pertaining to environmental protection must be settled before any substantial development can take place. The EU has also proposed certain regulations regarding the disclosure of chemicals used in fracking, including the Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH). Bulgaria and France have opted to ban fracking entirely, and the European Commission faces mounting pressure to call a thorough investigation into fracking, and possibly even impose a region-wide ban, in line with demands from the public.
However, countries such as Poland are opposing the unrest against fracking, stating that their tests have proved fracking to be environmentally safe. Poland holds valuable reserves which its still-developing industry could hugely benefit from, and this highlights the significant tension in the rapidly growing shale gas industry between environmental safety and energy security, and between developed and developing nations.
Europe has risked in-place shale gas resources of around 2,587 trillion cubic feet (tcf), which represents around one tenth of the world’s total risked in-place shale gas reserves.France holds the second largest recoverable resources within Europe, with a share of 29% in the European gas shale market.