Scientists sceptical of shale gas benefits
But the European Academies Science Advisory Council (EASAC) sees no reason to ban fracking on scientific or technical grounds.
“If effective regulation can be introduced, recent advances in technology and well management will allow the EU to ensure that local shale gas resources are extracted and used in ways that protect the environment, water resources and local communities,” EASAC said on Thursday.
Concerns that population density may make Europe unsuitable for fracking could be resolved with new technologies allowing multiple wells to be drilled from a single ‘pad’, reducing noise and transport impacts. Such technologies are being successfully used in densely populated areas of the US.
And good water management, along with technological improvements,is likely to water prevent pollution in Europe.
But the scientists warned that “fracking will not provide a miraculous solution for energy security”, noting that “considerable uncertainty” remains over the scale of Europe’s shale gas resource and whether extraction is economically viable.
They are also sceptical of claims that shale gas can contribute to a net reduction in greenhouse gases, as this would be dependent on “avoiding methane emissions at all stages – from the initial drilling, through the production phase and after the well is closed”.
The report comes the day after a similar warning from the UK’s Energy Research Council, which warned against “banking on shale” and poured cold water on politicians’ hopes for a “UK shale gas revolution”.
Industry lobby Shale Gas Europe said it was “potentially irresponsible” to suggest that the UK does not need shale gas until enough exploration is done to indicate its impact and commercial viability.
EASAC represents EU member states’ national science academies with the aim of “providing independent science advice to European policy-makers” and “a means for the collective voice of European science to be heard”.