UpdateGermany industry welcomes Berlin move on fracking

26 February 2013 20:15  [Source: ICIS news]

(updates with comments from Germany's industrial trade group BDI)

LONDON (ICIS)--Germany’s top industry trade group BDI on Tuesday welcomed plans by the country's federal government to prepare rules for hydraulic fracturing (fracking), the controversial technology used in the exploration and production of shale gas.

The challenges posed by Germany’s energy policies – with an exit from nuclear power generation by 2022 – made it necessary to look at new energy supplies, including domestic shale gas resources, said Markus Kerber, general manager of BDI. German chemical producers trade group VCI is a member of BDI.

Kerber was commenting on an announcement earlier on Tuesday that the government would prepare federal rules for fracking. Currently, Germany has no federal rules for fracking, as the country is regulating the matter on a state-by-state basis.

“It is important and right that the utilisation of domestic shale gas resources via fracking is not being excluded as an option for energy supplies,” Kerber said.

“Natural gas will be needed for many years to come” as Germany shifts to renewables and exits nuclear power, he said.

The government’s proposal should create legal certainty for firms planning to invest in shale gas production in Germany, he added.

Kerber warned that red tape should not impede investments in shale gas production.

“Each project needs to be evaluated on its own merits,” he said.

German environment minister Peter Altmaier said earlier on Tuesday that he reached an agreement with the economics ministry on preparing legislation for federal rules.

The new rules would ensure that economic interests in pursuing fracking will not go at the expense of the environment, Altmaier said.

“Our proposal will be an important signal that we are serious about protecting the environment,” he said.

However, German opposition politicians are rejecting fracking, and its use of chemicals that endanger the environment and water resources,” said Ulrich Kelber, a parliamentarian for the opposition Social Democratic Party.

“[Germany] is a densely populated country, with complicated underground and water conditions,” Kelber said.

“As long as the fracking technology involves the use of such chemicals, its use is not acceptable,” he added.

Oliver Krischer, a parliamentarian for Germany’s Green Party, said that fracking is a high-risk technology with unpredictable consequences for water resources and the environment.

“Unlike the US, Germany cannot become an experimental ground for the gas companies,” he added. 

The opposition parties said they would seek to block any federal fracking proposal in the upper house (Bundesrat), which represents the states. Chancellor Angela Merkel’s ruling coalition government does not have a majority in the Bundesrat.

The country is due for federal elections later this year.

By: Stefan Baumgarten
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