On Tuesday, February 26, 2013, the German government proposed new regulations concerning the recovery of hydrocarbons through hydraulic fracturing. These new regulations come at a point when several European governments have imposed a ban on hydraulic fracturing.
The proposed regulations would outlaw fracking in areas where there are water reserves and mineral springs and in areas near drinking water wells. All new projects would require environmental impact studies. Economy Minister Philipp Roesler stated that, while fracking offers “significant opportunities, we must always keep in view possible effects on the environment. ”

Environment Minister Peter Altmaier indicated that the proposed regulations represented “an important breakthrough to contain the dangers of fracking. Safety and environmental protection have priority over economic interests.”

Chancellor Angela Merkel has expressed concern about hydraulic fracturing in her densely populated country, but indicated the need to develop domestic energy sources as Germany closes its nuclear power plants, shifts to renewable energy, and wants to become less reliant on Russian gas.

With German elections set for September 2014, fracking has become a “bone of contention” between the political parties. Opposition parties have called either for a temporary moratorium (Social Democrats) or a complete ban (Green Party) on fracking.
According to the Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources, Germany may have as much as 2.3 billion cubic meters (81 billion cubic feet) of shale gas under its surface, a significant source of future energy. Developing that gas could boost the current output of natural gas 100-fold some experts suggest. Gas prices in Germany are currently four times those in the U.S.


 

This article was prepared by Barclay Nicholson (bnicholson@nortonrosefulbright.com / 713 651 3662) from Norton Rose Fulbright’s Energy Law Practice.