DOC - Europa

Brussels, 22 January 2014
Environment: European Commission recommends
minimum principles for shale gas
Today the European Commission adopted a Recommendation aiming to ensure that proper
environmental and climate safeguards are in place for "fracking" – the high-volume
hydraulic fracturing technique used notably in shale gas operations. The Recommendation
should help all Member States wishing to use this practice address health and
environmental risks and improve transparency for citizens. It also lays the ground for a
level playing field for industry and establishes a clearer framework for investors.
The Recommendation is accompanied by a Communication that considers the
opportunities and challenges of using "fracking", to extract hydrocarbons. Both documents
are part of a wider initiative by the Commission to put in place an integrated climate and
energy policy framework for the period up to 2030.
Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik said: "Shale gas is raising hopes in some parts
of Europe, but is also a source of public concern. The Commission is responding to calls for
action with minimum principles that Member States are invited to follow in order to
address environmental and health concerns and give operators and investors the
predictability they need."
Building on existing EU legislation and complementing it where necessary, the
Recommendation invites Member States in particular to:
Plan ahead of developments and evaluate possible cumulative effects before
granting licences;
Carefully assess environmental impacts and risks;
Ensure that the integrity of the well is up to best practice standards;
Check the quality of the local water, air, soil before operations start, in order
to monitor any changes and deal with emerging risks;
Control air emissions, including greenhouse gas emissions, by capturing the
Inform the public about chemicals used in individual wells, and
Ensure that operators apply best practices throughout the project.
The Commission will continue facilitating the exchange of information with Member States,
industry and civil society organisations on the environmental performance of shale gas
Next steps
EU Member States are invited to apply the principles within six months and, from
December 2014 onwards, inform the Commission each year about measures that they
have put in place. The Commission will monitor the application of the Recommendation
with a publicly available scoreboard that will compare the situation in different Member
States. It will review the effectiveness of this approach in 18 months.
Conventional natural gas is trapped in reservoirs underground. Shale gas is different – it
too is a natural gas, but it is trapped inside rocks that have to be broken open ("fractured"
or "fracked") to release the gas. In the EU there is limited experience to date of highvolume hydraulic fracturing on a large scale and at high intensity. The practice involves
injecting high volumes of water, sand and chemicals into a borehole to crack the rock and
facilitate gas extraction. So far experience in Europe has been focused essentially on low
volume hydraulic fracturing in some conventional and tight gas reservoirs, mostly in
vertical wells, constituting only a small part of past EU oil and gas operations. Drawing on
the North American experience where the high volume hydraulic fracturing has been
broadly used, operators are now testing further this practice in the EU.
The environmental impacts and risks need to be managed appropriately. As more wells
need to be drilled over a wider area to obtain the same amount of gas as in conventional
wells, the cumulative impacts need to be properly assessed and mitigated.
Most EU environmental legislation precedes the practice of high-volume hydraulic
fracturing. For this reason certain environmental aspects are not comprehensively
addressed in current EU legislation. This has led to public concern and calls for EU action.
For more information:
The Communication and the Recommendation can be found at:
More details on climate and energy policy:
See also:
Audiovisual material, including a VNR on shale gas and an extensive B-roll, can be
downloaded from
MEMO/14/42 : Q&A on shale gas
Contacts :
Joe Hennon (+32 2 295 35 93)