No green light yet for shale gas drilling, but its getting closer (update)

A report giving the green light to extracting shale gas from deep under the Netherlands will be assessed by a commission of environmental experts before any final decision is taken, economic affairs minister Henk Kamp said on Monday.

As expected, the report by civil engineering consultancy Witteveen+Bos clears the way for the controversial process to take place in the Netherlands. However, no decision about test drilling will be taken until the report itself has been looked at, Kamp said.

‘The report shows the risks attached to finding and extracting shale gas can be dealt with using current legislation,’ Kamp said. ‘And test drills will be needed to test the potential benefits of shale gas to the Dutch economy.’

Locations

Locals and local politicians will be involved in deciding about test locations, the minister said. British company Cuadrilla Resources has already applied for licences to carry out test drilling in three places in the Netherlands – Boxtel, Haaren and Noordoostpolder.

Shale gas is ordinary natural gas that has been trapped in dense shale beds deep underground. It is extracted using a controversial process known as fracking, which involves drilling a hole deep into the shale and pumping in water mixed with sand and chemicals.

A number of local councils, water boards and even brewing groups like Heineken have come out against the production of shale gas in the Netherlands because of the risk of pollution.

Criticism

The Netherlands’ biggest water company, Vitens, has criticised the report into shale gas extraction for failing to look at the ‘specific Dutch context’ when it comes to pollution risks.

Much more ‘far reaching scientific research’ needs to be done before any decision about drilling can be taken, the company, which has 5.4 million clients nationwide, said.

While MPs from the ruling right-wing Liberal VVD have welcomed the report, their Labour party partners have decline to comment so far.

The party’s congress voted against accepting shale gas extraction at its last annual congress. Instead, MPs plan to do more research and will not reach a conclusion until the end of September at least, Nos television reported.