Total’s new shale gas drilling plea

Company bids to restart exploration across south east but does not say how it will extract the gas after “fracking” ban

12 September 2011

FRENCH oil giant Total has told the government it wants to continue its explorations for shale gas in the south of France.

It has lodged a project to restart drilling on its “Montelimar” site, a zone covering 4,327 square kilometres that follows the Rhône from the north of Montelimar to Montpellier.

The move comes despite extensive protests in parliament and across the country which ended with MPs and the Sénat passing a law banning the only present-day technique for extracting the gaz de schiste.

Total has not given any details of how it would recover any gas found. It said it had exploration rights for five years on the site and it wanted information on what, if anything, was there.

It said it had no plans to use the only known method – hydraulic fracturing – which was banned in France in June after it was shown to be highly-polluting.

Known as “fracking”, it uses explosions deep underground to fracture the rock gas reservoir before up to 200 chemicals are injected at high pressure to force the gas out. These chemicals, plus oil and gas, have been found to leach into water sources near the well and pollute them.

The energy ministry said that it would give its decision on the plans on October 13, after taking advice from officials. Left-wing senators have already protested at the plans, questioning the government’s silence on the project.

Opponents had forecast during the run-up to the parliamentary vote during the spring that exploration companies would attempt to continue exploration without specifying the extraction method. They fear that if vast reserves of gas were found then the companies would put pressure on the government to change its mind and allow “fracking”

Apart from fears over the pollution of aquifers, the anti-gas lobby say that the “fracking” technique demands millions of litres of scarce water and that the low-pressure gas would mean drill sites would have to be set up very close to each other and close to housing.

Photo: Ruhrfisch

Resident or second-home owner in France?
Benefit from our daily digest of headlines and how-to's to help you make the most of life in France
By joining the newsletter, you agree to our Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy
See more popular articles
The Connexion Help Guides
Brexit and Beyond for Britons in France*
Featured Help Guide
What the Brexit deal means for UK residents of France, second homeowners and visitors in 2021 and after
Get news, views and information from France