Bloomberg News

French Senate Orders Study on Alternatives to Shale Fracking

November 15, 2012

The French Senate requested a report on alternatives to hydraulic fracturing, an oil and natural gas drilling technique known as fracking that’s banned in France.

The Senate’s economic affairs commission “considers that it would be regrettable to outlaw all studies and research into alternative technologies that respect the environment,” according to a statement today.

President Francois Hollande has pledged to retain a French ban on fracking, which was adopted by lawmakers last year after energy companies were granted licenses to explore for shale gas in France. Producers, through the Union Francaise des Industries Petrolieres, are lobbying the government to allow research that could quantify shale reserves. Studies would be allowed under the ban’s provisions as long as they were overseen by the state.

The Senate, the upper house of parliament, today asked a parliamentary commission to report on fracking alternatives.

“These technologies would allow the resources to be better evaluated and eventually to develop them within a strict regulatory framework,” the Senate said.

The French ban was passed by lawmakers ahead of presidential and parliamentary elections amid opposition to fracking from environmental groups that argued it posed a danger to underground water supplies.

Since coming to power in May, divisions within the government have emerged, with Industry Minister Arnaud Montebourg speaking favorably about shale energy in contrast to Energy Minister Delphine Batho.

“Research is possible on techniques other than hydraulic fracturing,” Hollande said two days ago at a press conference. “It’s not banned.”

On Sept. 14, he pledged to uphold a ban on fracking. France, along with Poland are the two nations considered to have the greatest potential for recoverable shale gas in Europe. So far Hollande has declined to create, as proponents of the method had hoped, a national commission for research into extraction techniques and shale reserves.

Companies such as Total SA (FP) and GDF Suez (GSZ) SA have argued that France’s reserves should be evaluated.

In fracking , or hydraulic fracturing, companies blast millions of gallons of water, sand and chemicals to free oil and natural gas from rock formations.

To contact the reporter on this story: Tara Patel in Paris at tpatel2@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Will Kennedy at wkennedy3@bloomberg.net


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