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France explores new shale gas extraction technique

Staff writer |
France is looking into a new technique of shale gas extraction with non-flammable propane, which has yet to be proven safe and efficient.

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Even though the exploitation of shale gas remains banned in France, the industry minister, Arnaud Montebourg, has openly stated he is in favour of it, EurActiv reports. Early February, a French parliamentary office assessing scientific and technological choices heard Jean-Claude Lenoir, MP and co-author of a report on alternative techniques to hydraulic fracturing, "fracking, the main extraction technique for shale gas.

In his May 2012 investiture speech, French President François Hollande clearly ruled out fracking in France. "In the current state of our knowledge no one can say that the exploitation of gas and oil shale by hydraulic fracturing, only known technique today, is free from serious risks for health and the environment."

The statement announced the end of fracking in France, which until then had been tested in two experimental wells. Today, a new experimental technique of extraction by non-flammable propane, heptafluoropropane, a refined hydrocarbon, is gaining recognition.

Injecting gas underground to exploit hydrocarbons is not new: oil groups have been injecting CO2 into oil or gas wells for a long time. As it reaches the underground where temperatures are higher, the gas progressively dilates, making it possible to put pressure on the hydrocarbons and extract them more easily.

In the case of unconventional gas, heptafluoropropane could make it possible to crack the bedrock where coal and shale oil and gas are trapped.

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