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France reaffirms opposition to shale gas exploration

Staff writer |
French Environment Minister Philippe Martin reiterated his government's strong opposition to the exploitation of shale gas, despite a parliamentary report advocating more flexibility towards unconventional gas.

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The French government says it will not issue the permits for shale gas exploitation requested by the US company Hess Oil. The company brought the the seven permits from the company Toreador, which had secured them three years ago. The oil covered by the permits is located in the Parisian basin. The permits were never clearly cancelled after the government set a law in 2011 prohibiting hydraulic fracturing.

"How was I to validate this change of permit when their initial goal was exclusively shale gas exploration and when the U.S. company that bought them is specialised in shale gas extraction? Given the geological strata where the drilling would have taken place," said Mr. Martin.

The cancellation could cost the French state around €210,000, as Hess Oil claims €30,000 compensation per permit. The state intends to reduce the compensation.

"In any case, it is nothing in comparison with the environmental and societal cost that this exploration would have represented," the minister said.

The decision of the minister confirms the categorical opposition of the French government to shale gas exploitation, a position not shared by all.

France is thought to hold the largest resources in shale gas on the European continent. In June 2013, the U.S. Energy Information Administration's assessment was that France potentially had 300 billion cubic metres of technically recoverable unconventional gas, reportes EurActiv.

The only country to have more recoverable reserves than France is Poland, which exploits shale gas. According to the Polish environment minister, Piotr Woźniak, the first commercial exploitation in Poland will start in 2014, making Poland the first country to exploit this resource.

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