France bans hydraulic fracturing in shale gas exploration
The upper house of France's parliament on Thursday evening passed a law prohibiting the use of hydraulic fracturing for shale gas exploration, making France the first country in the world to ban the technology, which is considered high-risk for the environment.
The lower house had approved the ban a week ago.
The French opposition was advocating a total ban of shale gas exploration, but the parliament outlawed only hydraulic fracturing, leaving the door open for future exploration if drilling technologies develop to become more environment-friendly.
The bill was passed in an emergency procedure after oil and gas giant Total had announced it was seeking a partner for exploration of a licence in the south of France last January, triggering violent protests among environmental organizations and members of parliament (see ESGM 28 January 2011).
Following the final vote, opponents have two weeks to refer to France's constitutional court.
Under the new law, holders of exploration and drilling permits will have two months to provide details on exploration technology they intend to use for the works.
Hydraulic fracturing is the only technology currently in commercial use for shale gas exploration. The French upper house had earlier been in favour of experimental shale gas drilling for scientific purposes and under strict public control, but the lower house rejected the idea (see ESGM 12 May 2011). DL
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