Unconventionals in Europe: Best Practice vs. Worst Case - The Conflict Between Facts and Public Perception

Open access


In spite of great progress in energy efficiency and in the development of renewable energy the world is likely to need significant amounts of fossil fuel throughout this century and beyond (the share of fossil fuels in the world mix has remained at about 86% of primary energy from 1990 to today). Gas, being the by far cleanest fossil fuel is the ideal bridging fuel to a world with predominantly renewable supplies. Thanks to the recent perfection of unconventional technologies there is no shortage of gas for this bridging function for at least the next 100-200 years. EASAC and several other European Institutions, notably the German Academy of Technical Sciences (acatech) have in the last few years carried out expert studies to assess the alleged environmental risks of unconventional hydrocarbon exploration and production. All these studies have, in agreement with other competent studies worldwide, come to the conclusion that there exists no scientific reason for a ban on hydraulic fracturing. With good practices, clear standards and adequate control the method causes no enhanced risks to the environment or the health of humans. Special attention has to be paid to the surface handling of drilling and fracking fluids. In Europe alone many thousand frac jobs have been carried out by the industry in the last 60 years without any severe accidents. The mishaps in North America have largely been the cause of unprofessional operations and human error. Especially in places with high air pollution, like many megacities of Asia, natural gas has to be seen as a unique chance to achieve a rapid improvement of the air quality and a significant reduction of CO2 emissions. This is also true for Europe where especially the use of domestic natural gas brings important benefits to the environment. The alternative to gas is in many regions of the world an increased consumption of coal, with all negative consequences.

[1] Emmermann R, editor. Hydraulic Fracturing: Eine Technologie in der Diskussion. Deutsche Akademie der Technikwissenschaften; 2014.

[2] EASAC (European Academies Science Advisory Council) 2014: Shale gas extraction: issues of particular relevance to the European Union. http://www.easac.eu.

[3] EPA 2015: External Review Draft, EPA/600/R-15/047a, June 2015. http://www.epa.gov/hfstudy.

[4] SASEG, editor. Swiss Bulletin for Applied Geology. Special volume on Hydraulic Fracturing. Swiss Bull Angew Geol. 2014:19(2). http://www.saseg.ch/cms/images/pdf/Publikationen/Medien/SwissBulletin_2-2014-lr.pdf.

[5] Reichetseder P. Clean unconventional gas production: Myth or reality? The role of well integrity and methane emissions. Swiss Bull Angew Geol. 2014;19(2):39-52. http://www.saseg.ch/cms/images/pdf/Publikationen/Medien/SwissBulletin_2-2014-lr.pdf.

[6] Hartmann D, Meylan B. Fracking in der Schweiz aus Sicht des Grund- und Trinkwasserschutzes. Swiss Bull Angew Geol. 2014;19(2):109-113. http://www.saseg.ch/cms/images/pdf/Publikationen/Medien/SwissBulletin_2-2014-lr.pdf.

[7] Reinicke K. The role of hydraulic fracturing for the supply of subsurface energy. Swiss Bull Angew Geol. 2014;19(2):5-17. http://www.saseg.ch/cms/images/pdf/Publikationen/Medien/SwissBulletin_2-2014-lr.pdf.

[8] Burri P, Chew K, Jung R, Neumann V. The potential of unconventional gas - energy bridge to the future (with a review of European unconventional gas activities). Swiss Bull Angew Geol. 2011;16(2):3-55. http://www.e-periodica.ch/digbib/view?pid=vsp-004:2011:16.

[9] Burri P. Hydraulic Fracturing - Postscriptum. A geologist’s attempt to summarize what we know and where we go. Swiss Bull Angew Geol. 2014;19(2):143-150. http://www.saseg.ch/cms/images/pdf/Publikationen/Medien/SwissBulletin_2-2014-lr.pdf.

[10] BP 2015: Energy Outlook 2035. http://www.bp.com/energyoutlook.

Ecological Chemistry and Engineering S

The Journal of Society of Ecological Chemistry and Engineering

Journal Information

5-year IMPACT FACTOR: 0.815

CiteScore 2017: 0.79

SCImago Journal Rank (SJR) 2017: 0.227
Source Normalized Impact per Paper (SNIP) 2017: 0.535

Cited By


All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 0 0 0
Full Text Views 154 150 14
PDF Downloads 77 76 8