Fracking in France

Since 2011, France has completely banned hydraulic fracturing. The process to achieve anti fracking laws followed a large national debate that year.

 

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Description

With 643,000 km² and 66 million inhabitants, France is the largest country and the second most populous state in European Union. This country possesses also the second largest maritime area in the world.

Energy situation

France is very dependent on nuclear energy, 19 nuclear power stations produce 75% of its electricity. Other main sources are hydro-electric (13%), thermal (8%) and wind (3%). France’s production is enough to export electricity to neighbouring countries.

 

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Banner displayed in 2014 by Greenpeace activists in the oldest operational nuclear power

Shale Gas situation

Despite its area size, France doesn’t produce petrol or gas and is dependent on imports. In 2011, according to the evaluation written by the International Energy Agency, France is the European country with the second most important shale gas resource, with two main basins in the northeast and southeast. But these are only estimates and from an American organisation, not from soil surveys.

Regulation

In France, the Minister of Environment has the power to award a drilling licence and the company must respect national rules. To know exactly the size of French shale gas and petrol supplies, it issued in March 2010 fracking licences to explore the French underground. In reaction, some ecological organisations created anti-fracking movements and started a national pledge. Following the activists’ work, the media were concerned about fracking and this debate became a national issue. In February 2011, the Government decided to suspend licences and anti-fracking organisations deposited judical requests to annul them definitively. In view of national protesting movements (pledges, demonstrations, public meetings, opinion polling), the leader of the majority in the Parliament proposed an anti-fracking bill, which was also supported by the opposition leader.

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In April 2011, the French Parliament adopted an Act called “Prohibition of hydraulic fracking in relation to the exploration and exploitation of hydrocarbons; and Revocation of licences to prospect.” There were 2 consequences: Fracking is completely banned, all forms of hydraulic fracturing are prohibited; Some hydrocarbon exploration and exploitation licences have been suspended and companies had two months to write a report and explain the techniques they intended to use. 64 permits were involved and if the plans included fracking, the licence was to be cancelled. After analyses of these, French authorities decided to cancel three licenses because they would use hydraulic fracturing drilling. A company contested this Act because its licence was cancelled. In 2013, the Constitutional Council judged the anti-fracking Act legal and in accordance with the Constitution.

 Outlook

Despite the Constitutional Court, on January 2016 a court declared illegal the cancelling of one of the licences. The Minister of Environment decided to do an appeal but finally the company involvedgave up its plan to frack because the price of hydrocarbon was too low to extract shale gas and the local population was not ready to accept fracking. The Minister of Environment announced in March 2016 her desire to include the prohibition of fracking in the Mining Code during the first semester 2016. From time to time, some politicians or businessmen express their regrets against the prohibition of fracking due to the large shale gas potential estimated in France.

Published on GEAI website, June 2016