There are quite a few folk on Twitter suggesting that the answer to the Russian gas squeeze on the EU is fracking for shale gas. The EU’s energy problems have become acute over the last six months as Gazprom has started to shut down the supply of gas via the Nordstream 1 pipeline. Nordstream 2 would have increased supply, but Germany rejected that option shortly after the military operation mounted by Russian forces in Ukraine. Nordstream 1 is now delivering just 20% of the gas it delivered before Germany applied sanctions on Russia and sent arms to Ukraine.
But, what if Germany had started fracking like they did in the USA, they wouldn’t have these problems, would they? A report “Shale Gas and EU Energy Security” written in December 2014 studied the question and came to the conclusion that shale gas could not replace gas imported from Russia. The problem is that today, the EU imports 155 billion cubic metres (bcm) of Russian natural gas. But, since the military operation by Russia commenced, the EU have committed to reducing Russian Gas imports to 100 bcm. The problem for the “frackers” is that shale gas production in the EU, according to the 2014 report, is only likely to yield 4 bcm per year. Even in the USA, the amount of shale gas produced is around 70 bcm per year.
So ends the argument for fracking in the EU. However, if Russia turns off all gas flows through Nordstream 1, then even 4 bcm a year could be useful. Germany has already introduced emergency measures, with the city of Hanover cutting all hot water and air conditioning in its public buildings. Quite a few towns and cities in fact are implementing similar measures to save gas for the winter. But for now, fracking, and even nuclear, are off the table as far as the German Government is concerned. Maybe they’ll change their minds after the coming winter. Whatever happens, it looks like Russia is procuring new markets for the gas that it once sold to the EU, so the EU is going to have to find a solution, and fast.