Publication Details

Reference Category Book chapters
DOI / URL link
Title (Primary) Germany: legal aspects of shale gas exploration and extraction
Title (Secondary) Shale gas : factual scientific argument for and against ; the scientific perspective of the expert network of the Shale Gas Information Platform SHIP
Author Ludwig, G.;
Publisher Hübner, A.; Vetter, A.; Horsfield, B.;
Year 2015
Department UPR;
Language englisch;
POF III (all) T16;
UFZ wide themes RU6;
Abstract Hydraulic fracturing (fracking) involves the injection of water, sand and a mixture of chemicals into rock formations at high pressure. This creates new fractures and opens existing fractures in the rock, allowing natural gas to migrate from the rock to the well and rise to the surface. This technology makes it possible to exploit gas dispersed in shale rock formations and allows drilling in areas that would not have been profitable 10 to 20 years ago. However, there are considerable environmental risks linked with this technology (for an overview cf. Lechtenboehmer et al., 2011, p. 17 ff.).

Apart from impacts associated with land consumption, damage to the environment and landscape, as well as air pollution and noise, another predominant concern is the potential for an adverse effect on water resources (The Widener School of Law’s Environmental & Natural Resources Law Clinic, 2010; Grün et al., 2011).

Hydraulic fracturing requires large quantities of water. Sand and chemicals are added to the water to facilitate the underground fracturing process. After the hydraulic fracturing process, the fracturing fluid is pumped out of the well, but dependent on underground pressure regimes, only a variable fraction of the fracturing fluid is recovered and stored in aboveground ponds to await removal by tanker.

This flowback water contains chemicals used for fracturing, as well as dissolved material that was released from the shale, including radioactivity generated through contact with slightly radioactive rocks that naturally occur underground, and therefore needs special treatment or disposal. The remaining water is left in the ground where it has the potential to contaminate shallow or deep groundwater aquifers (for potential impacts on water resources cf. The Tyndall Centre, 2011, p. 54 ff.; Umweltbundesamt, 2011, p. 13 ff.).

Some are suggesting that hydraulic fracturing may pollute shallow groundwater supplies with flammable methane (Osborn et al., 2011; Schon, 2011). Dependent on the technology used, the production of shale gas can emit significantly more greenhouse gases than the production of conventional natural gas. These higher emissions occur as methane escapes from flow backreturn fluids and during drillout following the fracturing (Howarth et al., 2011). Furthermore, shale gas operations can trigger small earthquakes (Majer et al., 2011).

All these potential threats to the environment have to be dealt with in the licensing procedure. This article investigates the legislation that applies to drilling and hydraulic fracturing for natural gas in German shale rock formations. It explores the main legal issues linked to the German mining law and the law on water management.
ID 16910
Persistent UFZ Identifier http://www.ufz.de/index.php?en=20939&ufzPublicationIdentifier=16910
Ludwig, G. (2015):
Germany: legal aspects of shale gas exploration and extraction
In: Hübner, A., Vetter, A., Horsfield, B. (eds.)
Shale gas : factual scientific argument for and against ; the scientific perspective of the expert network of the Shale Gas Information Platform SHIP
GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences, Potsdam, p. 118 - 134