Enabling Shale Gas In Europe: Fuelling the Future

Strategic Communications

January 22, 2014

22 January 2014 is an important day for Europe’s energy, environment and industrial policies.

The European Commission has simultaneously presented its 2030 framework for climate and energy, its Communication for a European Industrial Renaissance and its Communication and Recommendation providing minimum principles for the exploration and production of shale gas.

This snapshot focusses on the progress of Europe’s shale gas debate and the potential for the fuel to bridge the European Commission’s ambitions for energy, climate and industrial renaissance.

Europe’s shale gas enabling project so far

In light of the positive impact of shale gas on the US economy, the European Commission’s role over recent years has been to assess the potential for the sustainable extraction and use of shale gas in Europe. The European Commission’s Communication and Recommendation on shale gas are therefore the culmination of years of studies, public consultation, analysis and decision-making.

The Commission’s assessment began with a review by Philippe and Partners in November 2011. This study found the EU’s environmental legal framework applied to shale gas development and was adequate for early exploration and exploitation of shale gas. However, further clarification was deemed necessary for the production phase.

To aid its decision-making process, in September 2012, the European Commission released studies on the potential environmental risks of shale gas development, the climate impact and the potential energy market impacts in the European Union. Such studies provide a body of evidence for the European Commission’s approach to the Communication and Recommendation. This is evident in its statements that “the greenhouse gas emissions from shale gas production in Europe could be 41% to 49% lower than emissions from coalbased electricity generation” and that shale gas production could encourage “a moderate decrease or avoided increase in gas prices.”

In conjunction, the European Parliament put forward its formal position on shale gas in November 2012. Two reports were adopted; one on the environmental impacts of shale gas which called on the European Commission to “take the necessary action to complement and extend existing EU environmental legislation”. The second report, on the industrial aspects of shale gas, found that risks identified could be mitigated with the adoption of best practices and therefore invited the EU Member States to ensure that such practices are followed. The European Parliament’s resolutions underlined that shale gas is an opportunity to be seized rather than a threat to be avoided.

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