LCE-16-2014 - Understanding, preventing and mitigating the potential environmental impacts and risks of shale gas exploration and exploitation
Specific challenge: Gas shales have a very low porosity and permeability, and have to be fractured pervasively to create high-permeability pathways for the gas to migrate towards the wells. The fracturing process is subject to discussion, as it requires the injection of large amounts of water and chemicals, a part of which are eventually brought back to the surface. There are also concerns that the fractures may cause natural gas to leak into shallower aquifers that are used for drinking water supplies. In addition, the fracturing process can cause microseismicity, which - when felt at the surface - may give rise to public concerns. The most imminent challenge for shale gas extraction is therefore to address the associated environmental concerns, in particular through a better understanding and monitoring of the fracturing process and its environmental effects (including in the long term), treatment and recycling of flow-back and produced water, and mitigation of induced seismicity and emissions to air (including greenhouse gases).
Scope: Data collection (which could include satellite observation data), model development and identification/assessment of environmental impacts and risks of different exploration and exploitation techniques, and establishment of scientific recommendations for best practices. In line with the Union’s strategy for international cooperation in research and innovation international cooperation is encouraged, in particular as regards knowledge sharing and collaboration with relevant US and Canadian partners.
The Commission considers that proposals requesting a contribution from the EU of between EUR 1 to 3 million would allow this specific challenge to be addressed appropriately. Nonetheless, this does not preclude submission and selection of proposals requesting other amounts.
Expected impact: The resulting knowledge base and scientific recommendations for best practices will contribute to efforts aimed at minimising the environmental footprint of shale gas extraction.
Type of action: Research & Innovation Actions