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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.
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 fracing also has been cited as a cause of erosion and damage to the natural landscape. Fracing even has been blamed by some for seismic disturbances. For instance, an earthquake in UK was alleged to be caused by fracing for shale gas carried out by Cuadrilla Resources, an energy company.
Rising concerns have been seen through protests carried out across Europe against fracing, and if the situation worsens, this could be a significant threat for development of shale gas in Europe. Several countries in Europe already have enforced moratoriums on fracing, and issues pertaining to environmental protection must be settled before any substantial development can take place. The EU also has proposed certain regulations regarding the disclosure of chemicals used in fracing, including the Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH).
Bulgaria and France have opted to ban fracing entirely, and the European Commission faces mounting pressure to call a thorough investigation into fracing, 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 fracing, stating that their tests have proved fracing 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 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.