Germany bans fracking in low-depth clay formations

BONN -- Germany has imposed a ban on hydraulic fracturing in clay formations, between 1,000 to 2,500 m depth. Fracturing for deep “tight” gas at depths ranging from 4,000 to 5,000 m deep is still allowed, but under more stringent regulations.

Scientific tests will still be permitted, but only with the permission of the state government with monitoring by independent experts. Conventional oil and gas drilling is allowed with permission of local authorities.

In tightening its rules on fracking Germany follows France, which has banned the practice, and The Netherlands, which has imposed a moratorium on fracking until 2020.

The German ban is indefinite, but the Bundestag will reassess it in 2021 under a compromise reached between the conservative Christian Democrats (CDU) and the left-wing Social Democrats (SPD).

Germany could extract between 320 Bcm to 2.03 Tcm of gas from depths below 1,000 m in northern Germany, according to the Federal Institute for Geosciences (BGR).

Angela Merkel’s coalition government had been working for several months on new fracking rules, but the legislation had to be rushed as several oil companies had threatened to go ahead with their fracking projects that had been held up for five years.

The German brewing industry has long been campaigning for a ban on fracking due to apprehension over contamination of water aquifers close to the clay formations and endangering the quality of their beer. Oil companies interested hydraulic fracturing include Exxon Mobil, Wintershall, DEA and Engie.