Regulatory provisions governing key aspects of unconventional gas extraction in selected EU Member States
Client: DG Environment
The extraction of unconventional gas in the European Union is at a very early stage of development compared to the United States, which is already well advanced in the commercial production.
Prospecting and explorations are, however, underway or foreseen in several EU Member States. On one hand, there is a strong political interest in the development of this industry and technology that could further diversify Member States’ energy supply through local production, while reducing imports from countries outside the EU (e.g. the reliance of Poland, Lithuania and Romania on Russian gas). On the other hand, there are general public and public authority concerns over the environmental, climate and health impacts/risks induced by the extraction of unconventional gas.
At the national level, Member States have followed very different approaches. The Commission’s objective is to ensure that the individual and cumulative risks associated to unconventional gas extractions, through hydraulic fracturing, are correctly managed.
This objective must be achieved and take into account the European Council mandate calling for an assessment of Europe’s potential for sustainable extraction and use of conventional and unconventional fossil fuels’ resources in order to further enhance Europe’s security of supply (Council Conclusion of 4 February 2011).
The aim of this project was to assess both the differences and commonalities of national regulatory approaches with regard to unconventional gas extraction in eight selected Member States, and to identify best regulatory practices and limitations in related national legislation on environmental and health matters.
The result of this analysis was used by the Commission to assess whether the potential adoption of a risk-management framework for unconventional gas at the EU level would comply with the principle of subsidiarity. The potential limitations and best practices identified in the national legislation also fed in the assessment of the need to a specific risk-management for unconventional gas at the EU level.
This assessment led to the Commission adoption on 22 January 2014 of a Recommendation to contribute to bringing clarity and predictability to public authorities, market operators and citizens.
It invites Member States to follow minimum principles when applying or adapting their legislation and the make it applicable to hydrocarbons exploration or production, using high volume hydraulic fracturing.
Weblink to the study: http://ec.europa.eu/environment/integration/energy/pdf/Final%20Report%2024072013.pdf