Articles from 2013
Great news- for everyone- from France
- Written by Nick Grealy
- Published: 06 June 2013
I’ve been wrong again. The French Parliament has produced a report today on shale that exceeds my previous optimism on French shale, a confidence rarely found anywhere else among English language observers, and a welcome antidote to pessimism prevalent amongst even much of the French oil and gas industry. This from Bloomberg:
France’s ban on hydraulic fracturing should be eased to estimate the size of its shale oil and gas reserves, according to a parliamentary report.
Dozens of exploration wells could be drilled in regions where seismic data has indicated promising reserves, a report by a French parliamentary commission showed.
“We have to estimate our reserves more precisely,” Deputy Christian Bataille told a press conference today. Shale oil in the Paris Basin appears “promising” while data on shale gas in southwestern France is outdated, he said.
This may be a poor choice of words, but comparing the problems surrounding planning permission in the UK and the Paris Parliament’s new-founded reality on the need for “dozens” of exploration wells, could this be France leapfrogging the UK - and everywhere else in Europe?
Assuming people have neither the language or a subscription to behind le paywall, trust me on this translation from Le Monde, which highlights how the report seems to go out of it’s way to both address concerns and to inject reality into the debate.
France has the ability to develop a path of fracturing that is respectful of the environment, the report says, noting that many French companies are experts in certain steps of the process in the United States, as Veolia is in the treatment of water. "France has all the scientific, technical and industrial, at all levels of the industry, to create a chain of clean fracturing".
This progress report proposes making research on French resources a priority, with the use of the technique - banned since 2012 for non-conventional resources - of hydraulic fracturing on "dozens" of experimental wells. They argue that hydraulic fracturing has already been used in France "at least 45 times" between 1980 and the banning of 2011,"without any damage being reported".
Yesterday there was a very strenuous debate between Minister of Ecology Delphine Bartho, and Laurence Parisot, Chief of Employer’s Federation MEDEF. You don’t have to speak French to see how heated the debate went, but Parisot won on facts and the economy. Bartho seemed genuinely surprised when challenged on the environmental facts just after she repeated a litany of disasters that would make Josh Fox blanch. She then tried to politicise the debate, with Parisot insisting that all France needed to create a growth strategy. Bartho then used arguments familiar in the UK that renewables were creating a green growth industry, at which point the relatively cool Parisot started rolling her eyes.
Unfortunately not for attribution, but a French banker pointed out to me yesterday how support for shale among even the far- left unions - who think the Socialists a little soft - is very strong. He was mystified at how the Greens, who had signed a pre-election pact with the Socialists, were taken seriously. After all, the Green candidate didn't even get 4% in the first round of Presidential voting and they hold a mere 17 out of 577 seats in the National Assembly where the Socialists don't require their support.
Alors, what next? In France
While reaffirming the ban on hydraulic fracturing, the president Francois Hollande said at the end of 2012, he would"take his responsibilities" if a new technique of friendly environment appeared, raising concerns among environmentalists. The parliamentary report sparked even before its publication, heavy fire from critics who oppose the extraction of shale gas, regardless of the techniques used.
But the French shale ban is instructive. At UGOS this week, the French ban was exhibited not by greens, but by UK bankers, as symptomatic of a shale environment in Europe un-conducive to risk, thus giving a circular logic to their rationalisations as to why they shouldn’t live up to their own responsibility to provide growth in Europe.
But it goes further than that. Even in North America, as we see the shale battle move to California, France’s ban is similarly hailed as a sign that at least someone will protect the rights of the Greens in France and the UK who have mistaken a lifestyle choice of the affluent for a means to save the planet. Similarly, in the farmers markets of Cornell, Woodstock, Nyack and Manhattan, prosperous or merely comfortable opponents of New York shale often point admiringly to France.
France is founded - even before liberté, égalité, et fraternité - on rationality. Rationality will - eventually and inevitably - win. Everywhere.
Today's news is encouraging for those brave few who have hung on in France - San Leon Energy, Vermillion Energy, 3 Legs, Schuepbach, Hess and a few others, but it's also encougaging for anyone operating in shale anywhere in the world.