23 may 2011
Concerns relating to hydraulic fracturing may put a hold on shale gas activities in Switzerland.
In April, authorities in the Swiss Canton of Fribourg suspended all authorizations to prospect for shale gas on its territory for an undetermined period.
Schuepbach has planned drilling in 2012 in the district of Glâne, where conventional exploration had taken place in the 1970s.
The Fribourg authorities said their decision was reached based on “the impact of drilling on the environment and pollution risks have not yet been clearly identified.” They also stressed that the canton prefers to focus on renewable energies, rather than pursue the extraction of fossil fuels.
For Schuepbach, the Fribourg decision is a blow to its ambitions.
“It’s a panic reaction,” said Werner Leu, a geological consultant working for the company.
“The authorities say they want to avoid fossil fuels, but two thirds of energy needs are met by those fuels.”
“Besides, we are still at the evaluation stage and it would take a long time to get a drilling permit given the strict rules that must be followed,” said Leu.
Jan Mosar, a geologist at Fribourg University, calls the decision “courageous”, adding that searching for shale gas would just delay any response to our dependency on fossil fuels.
For Mosar, the risks of fracking are not to be underestimated.
“Part of the injected products filters through to other rocks, from where they can reach underground water supplies, polluting them for a long time,” he explained.
Another concern is the possibility of man-made tremors, like the ones felt in Basel in 2006 during the construction of a geothermal project.
“Underground fault lines run under many parts of canton Fribourg. If a well hits one of those faults, it could generate earthquakes,” said Mosar.