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H2020

M4ShaleGas Report Summary

Project ID: 640715
Funded under: H2020-EU.3.3.2.3.

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - M4ShaleGas (M4ShaleGas: Measuring, monitoring, mitigating managing the environmental impact of shale gas)

Reporting period: 2015-06-01 to 2016-08-31

Summary of the context and overall objectives of the project

M4ShaleGas stands for Measuring, Monitoring, Mitigating and Managing the environmental impact of shale gas. The project is funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme and aims at addressing the specific challenge related to understanding, preventing and mitigating the potential environmental impacts and risks of shale gas exploration and exploitation. The M4ShaleGas project is carried out by 18 European research institutions and is coordinated by TNO-Netherlands Organization for Applied Scientific Research. The consortium studies and evaluates potential risks and impacts of shale gas exploration and exploitation. The general objective is to develop science-based best practice recommendations for minimizing the environmental footprint of shale gas exploration and exploitation in Europe.
Shale gas is – by definition – a natural gas found trapped in shale, a fine grained sedimentary rock composed of mud. Shale gas source rocks are widely distributed around the world and many countries have now started to investigate their shale gas potential. The European Commission's Energy Roadmap 2050 identifies gas a critical energy source for the transformation of the energy system to a system with lower CO2 emissions that combines gas with increasing contributions of renewable energy and increasing energy efficiency. It may be argued that in Europe, natural gas replacing coal and oil will contribute to emissions reduction on the short and medium terms. On the other hand, scientists forecast that much of the world’s known fossil fuel reserves must remain in the ground if global warming is to be limited to 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels. More localised concerns include potential risks of water contamination and induced seismicity, mainly being associated with hydraulic fracturing operations, as well as social impacts and health effects.
In M4ShaleGas concerns and risks are clustered in the four research areas: subsurface, surface, atmosphere and society. As the European continent is densely populated, it is most certainly of vital importance to understand public perceptions of shale gas and for European publics to be fully engaged in the debate about its potential development.
Europe has a strong need for a comprehensive understanding of potential environmental, societal and economic consequences of shale gas exploration and exploitation. Knowledge gaps include for example the understanding of differences between Europe and North America resulting from differences in geological and geopolitical settings, the description of requirements for quantitative risk assessments and mitigation of risks and impacts that are specific for Europe, or the identification of best practices in North America and Europe. Knowledge needs to be science-based, needs to be developed by research institutes with a strong track record in shale gas studies, and needs to cover the different attitudes and approaches to shale gas exploration and exploitation in Europe. The M4ShaleGas project is seeking to provide such a scientific knowledge base.

Work performed from the beginning of the project to the end of the period covered by the report and main results achieved so far

Horizon 2020 Topic LCE-16-2014
Understanding, preventing and mitigating the potential environmental impacts and risks of shale gas exploration and exploitation.

Specific challenge
Gas shales are low permeability rocks which have to be fractured pervasively to create high-permeability pathways for gas to migrate towards the wells. In particular, the fracturing process is subject to debate as it requires the injection of large amounts of water and chemicals. Proper handling of injection and flow back fluids is crucial. Optimum approaches for shale gas operations need to be outlined and further developed.

Mission statement
M4ShaleGas examines the potential environmental impacts and risks related to shale gas exploration and exploitation in Europe with the goal to build a technical and social knowledge base on best practices and innovative approaches for measuring, monitoring, mitigating, and managing these impacts.

Implementation
M4ShaleGas examines potential risks and impacts of shale gas exploration on the environment, the climate and the society.
The Project aims to:
– build an extended knowledge base for Europe
– formulate science-based recommendations for best practices
– contribute to reducing or minimising the environmental footprint of shale gas exploration and exploitation

M4ShaleGas studies the environmental impact of shale gas exploitation in 4 subprograms (SP):
SP1: Impact of subsurface activities: hydraulic fracturing, induced seismicity, well integrity
SP2: Impact of surface activities: water, soil and well site activities
SP3: Impact on air quality and climate
SP4: Public engagement and perceptions of environmental impacts

Progress beyond the state of the art and expected potential impact (including the socio-economic impact and the wider societal implications of the project so far)

M4ShaleGas will provide science-based recommendations for best practices aiming at minimizing the potential environmental footprint of shale gas exploration and exploitation in Europe.
For each type of potential impact, the project will result in:
– A review of available and accessible data and actual best practices from North America
– An analysis of identified knowledge gaps including a potential risk and impact analysis evolving from these knowledge gaps
– A report or publication with science-based recommendation of best practice aiming at a lowest possible environmental footprint
The M4ShaleGas program incorporates research on both the technical and social aspects associated with risks and impacts of shale gas exploration and exploitation. This combination allows a detailed analysis of potential differences between actual and perceived risks thus, having an impact on public discussions and providing insights in optimized approaches to achieve engagement of all stakeholders in the European shale gas debate.
The following tools will be used to achieve a maximum sharing of project results with stakeholders in the shale gas area:
– Scientific and popular science publications
– Website including area for download of project reports
– Scientific and network conferences (contributions by oral and poster presentations, panel discussions, interviews)

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