* Commission to announce shale stance around year-end
* Some in industry want regulatory framework
* Uncertainty over methane emissions
By Barbara Lewis
BRUSSELS, Oct 3 European policy-makers will
decide by the end of the year whether they need tailor-made
rules to cover the development of shale gas reserves, a senior
official said on Thursday.
Until now, the European Commission, the EU executive, has
said existing environmental law is adequate for the early stages
of shale gas exploration in Europe.
Jos Delbeke, director general of the Commission's climate
action service, said he expected an announcement around the end
of the year as part of a package of future energy and climate
policies, addressing 2030 energy targets, energy costs and also
"We will deal with shale gas as part of the 2030 questions
that are on the table," Delbeke told a debate on shale gas.
"We are doing an analysis of where there may be gaps in our
legislation. There may be legislation from the EU."
Even if the Commission does go as far as a legislative
proposal, elections to the European Parliament next year
followed by a new cast of EU commissioners mean it would almost
certainly not be finalised before 2015.
Shale gas development in the European Union is highly
Industry argues it can curb greenhouse gases, lower energy
costs and shore up indigenous supplies. Some in the business,
such as Chevron, have said a regulatory framework would
But environmental campaigners and commission officials also
highlight the complexity of its development in Europe.
Delbeke cited the issues of Europe's population density,
environmental concerns and the need to ensure that it was
complementary to renewable energy, but did not displace it.
"The impact has been very negative (for Europe). The U.S.
has substituted coal for gas and superfluous coal has come to
Europe," he said of the shale gas revolution in the United
Among the environmental concerns is the release of methane,
which is an extremely potent greenhouse gas.
Some research has said methane leaks from shale wells could
mean shale gas is even worse than coal for the environment, but
uncertainty over how much is emitted is very great.
A new study for the University of Texas at Austin, United
States, presented in Brussels on Thursday found emissions from
some types of pneumatic devices used in shale gas extraction,
were higher than previously thought.
Overall emissions, however, were comparable to the most
recent estimates from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Drew Nelson, a senior manager at the Environmental Defense
Fund (EDF), a U.S. advocacy group, said the EDF was supporting
16 separate studies to try to create more certainty about
methane emission levels.