The state of Shale in Europe: Northwestern Europe

The EIA notes that numerous shale gas basins and formations exist in northwestern Europe. But while the UK government has opted to go ahead with developing a shale gas industry despite a vocal anti-fracking movement, the governments of other densely-populated countries such as France and the Netherlands have given into pressure and currently have fracking bans in place.

French President François Hollande ruled out shale gas exploration under his administration in July. In what was presumably an attempt at humor Hollande said « What is shale gas? It is an Eldorado that just needs to be drilled? » before adding that he felt there was a risk to groundwater due to the techniques used in hydraulic fracturing. Meanwhile, the Netherlands is still undecided about whether to proceed with a shale gas industry. The Dutch government scrapped a proposal to allow fracking in early June. Germany has also not yet approved shale gas fracking amid widespread public opposition, although the country’s government is looking at allowing the existence of a strictly-regulated industry.

But should the oil and gas industry manage to overcome this political opposition, northwestern Europe has several basins that offer promising potential for shale gas exploration. The Paris Basin, with two distinct shale gas and oil formations, holds some 129 Tcf in risked, technically-recoverable shale gas resources, according to the EIA, while the West Netherlands Basin holds approximately 26 Tcf in risked, technically-recoverable shale gas. In Germany, the Lower Saxony Basin, which covers an area of around 3,800 square miles in the northwest of the country, is estimated to hold some 17 Tcf of risked, technically-recoverable shale gas. Meanwhile, in Denmark (as well as Norway and Sweden to the north) potential extractable shale gas resources exist in the Alum Shale.

Much of the Alum Shale is judged to be shallow, thin and immature, according to the EIA, but in Denmark the organization estimates that there are 32 Tcf of risked, technically-recoverable shale gas resources. Although TOTAL was awarded two shale gas exploration licenses as operator in 2010 by the Danish Ministry of Climate and Energy, an exploration well scheduled for this summer has been delayed for around a year after a decision by the Frederikshavn city council.

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