BGR Study on Shale Gas Deposits in Germany

A study by the Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources (BGR) on the potential of shale gas in Germany identifies shale gas deposits of between 6.8 trillion  m3 and 22.6 trillion  m3 gas in place. The median figure for gas in place is 13 trillion m³.

Applying an extraction factor (Gewinnungsfaktor) of 10%, this would mean between 0.7 to 2.3 trillion m3 of technically recoverable gas, with a median of 1.3 trillion m³ TRR, BGR says. Shale gas could thus reduce Germany’s dependence on imported gas (presently 80%), and gas could help bridge the transition towards a renewable energy supply. However, environmental concerns about shale gas production make it unforeseeable to what degree shale gas would be produced in Germany, BGR points out.

The estimates on shale gas deposits would have to be verified by further studies, BGR says, pointing out that at any rate shale gas deposits exceeded conventional gas ressources (0.15 trillion  m3) and gas reserves (0.146 trillion m3) by far. Hence shale gas had the potential to counterbalance the declining conventional gas production in Germany and increase the security of supply. However, an increase of production as in the United States could not be expected. Besides, it was still unclear if and to what degree shale gas would be produced in Germany.

Environmentalists in Germany and worldwide have expressed concern with respect to the shale gas production involving fracking. They fear water contamination near drilling sites, when large amounts of water, chemicals and sand are injected into shale rock formations at high pressures to break open the rock and release gas and oil from unconventional deposits.

A few days ago citizens’ groups opposed to fracking from all over Germany met in the small municipality of Lünne in Lower Saxony, an area in which Exxon Mobil carried out test drilling, the television and radio station NDR reported.  In November 2011, the state of North Rhine-Westphalia banned fracking until the presentation of an expert opinion in 2012. The Federal Environment Agency (UBA), a subordinate authority to BMU, is also in the process of preparing a study on fracking. The results of both studies shall be presented at the end of August 2012, UBA says.

Subsurface risks by fracking were comparatively low in comparison with accidents that occurred on the surface, BGR says. Preliminary examination of possible drilling sites could help to prepare fracking in a way that leakage of the fracking fluids through the underground fracture in neighbouring underground formations and aquifers could be ruled out with a high degree of certainty. The development of the fracture could be predicted based on model calculations. Besides, substituting currently used fracking chemicals would help the environment and increase public acceptance of tracking, BGR says.

BGR considers seismographic activity induced by fracking not very likely in large parts of Germany with a low earthquake hazard. This was true for the North German Basin, an area where there are thought to be considerable shale gas deposits. For areas with a higher earthquake hazard, like the Rhine Rift Valley (Rheingraben), BGR recommends to monitor seismic activity, taking into account the local geological and tectonic conditions.

Source: Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources