Originally viewed as one of the most promising countries in
Europe for shale gas development, France recently affirmed its
decision to ban hydraulic fracturing.
By way of background, the 2011 French law—which was found to be
constitutional by the French Constitutional Court in
2013—banned hydraulic fracturing and annulled exploration
permits that several energy companies had already received, thus
prohibiting even exploratory projects to assess the resources and
determine whether shale gas exploration should be taken into
To date, the sole technique for extracting shale oil and gas is
hydraulic fracturing, also known as "fracking." Fracking
is a well stimulation technique whereby the gas-bearing rock along
the well bore is fractured by high-pressured water, chemicals, and
sand, and the sand or similar media is used to keep the cracks open
once made so that trapped gas can flow out to the head of the
However, in 2012, former industry minister Arnaud Montebourg
commissioned a report to investigate alternatives to fracking and
especially to the extensive use of water to extract shale gas.
Completed in 2014, the report was promptly set aside by the French
government, which has repeatedly voiced its opposition to shale
In brief, the report, drafted by multiple experts, recommends the
testing in France of an operating technique using nonflammable
propane ("NFP"), as an alternative to controversial
"fracking." NFP is a liquid currently used as propellant
for asthma inhalers or fire extinguishers and is mainly produced by
the French-Belgian chemical company Solvay. In essence, the
advantages of this technique would be to limit the use of
water—a highly contested issue concerning fracking in
France—and of chemical additives.
In addition, the report emphasizes the beneficial effects for the
French economy: In the best-case scenario, France could have an
estimated 3.8 trillion cubic meters of shale gas, which has been
predicted to reap an economic benefit of €100 billion and
create up to 225,000 jobs.
However, the lack of testing, combined with the fact that NFP is a
greenhouse gas, was sufficient justification for the French
government to set aside the report. Additionally on April 7, 2015,
Ségolène Royal, the French Minister for the
Environment, stated in a press release that "reopening the
shale gas debate may jeopardize the economic recovery created by
the law on energy transition," and that energy companies
should instead concentrate on investing in
She concluded by saying that shale gas extraction was no longer a
"viable" topic. What will the next chapter be?
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.
Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.
A new Spanish Law on air pollution has been published and is
likely to lead to increasingly strict controls on air emissions
for many sectors.
Some comments from our readers… “The articles are extremely timely and highly applicable” “I often find critical information not available elsewhere” “As in-house counsel, Mondaq’s service is of great value”
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).