European Gas Giant Backs French Fear Of Fracking

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European Gas Giant Backs French Fear Of Fracking (Forbes, Sep. 22, 2011):

Europe’s largest natural gas firm, the Paris-based GDF Suez, agrees with the French government that hydraulic fracturing must be made safer for the environment before it is used to develop natural gas from shale resources in Europe.

“There will be no development of shale gas (in France) without the maximum of measures to protect the environment,” Gerard Mestrallet, the chief executive officer of GDF Suez, said in an interview with Bloomberg. France banned hydraulic fracturing earlier this year , despite the potential for extensive shale gas development in Southern France.

“There are concerns about the environmental impact,” Mestrallet said. “Probably it can be improved and probably it has to be improved.”

Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is under widespread development in the United States, fueling a natural gas supply boom, with an EPA review of its environmental safety underway. The U.S. success has set off shale gas explorations worldwide, and promising sites have been uncovered in Europe, particularly in France, Germany, Poland, and Ireland.

Not all gas companies share Mestrallet’s symapthy for environmental concerns. An Australian firm that holds a license to develop 500 shale gas wells in northwest Ireland has assured the public the process is safe.

Richard Moorman, CEO of Tamboran, even told residents of Sligo the firm would not use chemicals in the natural-gas extraction process.

Fracking fluids are believed to contain, in addition to water, benzene, ethylbenzene, formaldehyde, methanol, naphthalene, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, toluene, xylene, boric acid, hydrochloric acid, isopropanol, and diesel fuel.

In the U.S., only the use of diesel fuel must be disclosed, and the formula used at each well may be guarded as a trade secret.

The Energy Policy Act of 2005 exempted hydraulic fracturing operations from the Safe Drinking Water Act, freeing drilling companies from the obligation to disclose the chemicals injected into deep shale formations to shatter shale and convey gas back to the well.

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