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JRC support to Commission's Recommendation on shale gas


07/02/2014

On 22 January, the European Commission issued a Recommendation on minimum principles for the exploration and production of hydrocarbons (such as shale gas) using high volume hydraulic fracturing in order to contribute to bringing clarity and predictability to public authorities, market operators and citizens. It invites Member States to follow minimum principles when applying or adapting their legislation applicable to hydrocarbons exploration or production using high volume hydraulic fracturing. The Recommendation was accompanied by a Communication outlining the potential new opportunities and challenges stemming from shale gas extraction in Europe, as well as an Impact Assessment that examined the socio-economic and environmental impacts of various policy options.

The JRC has been actively involved in the preparation of these texts. JRC scientists contributed to the Impact Assessment procedure to evaluate the impact of shale gas extraction on land, water and air quality. Detailed results of the study are presented in the report ‘Spatially-resolved assessment of land and water use scenarios for shale gas development: Poland and Germany’.

Specific technology scenarios, to represent worst-, average- and best-case assumptions regarding water and land-use requirements for shale gas development have been implemented using spatially-resolved water and land availability/demand modelling tools, such as the Land Use Modelling Platform (LUMP). The study was carried out for Germany and a river basin in Poland for the period 2013-2028. These countries have been chosen for their potential reserves of shale gas and availability of geological maps. The scenarios analysis was complemented by a risk assessment of potential human and ecosystem health impacts attributable to the accidental or operational release of chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing of shale formations, based on a life cycle approach.

Considerations to support future air quality impact assessments for shale gas development activities are also included in the study.

The Commission asks Member States to check the quality of the local water, air and soil before any shale gas operations start, monitor any changes observed, and inform the public about chemicals used in individual wells. A particular focus is put on the control of air emissions, including greenhouse gas emissions. EU Member States are invited to apply the principles within six months and, from December 2014 onwards, inform the Commission each year about the measures that they have put in place.

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