* Commission recommends rules, not firm law for shale gas
* EU shale gas impact likely to be limited
* At best, EU shale gas will only cap level of imports
By Barbara Lewis
BRUSSELS, Jan 10 Shale gas should only be
developed in the European Union if a set of conditions is met,
such as making public the chemicals used to extract it and
taking stringent measures to prevent water contamination, a
European Commission document said.
The measures are not binding, following heavy lobbying
against formal law for shale gas, including a letter to the
Commission, the EU executive, from Britain's Prime Minister
Other steps the Commission invites member states to carry
out include an assessment of the environmental impact and
keeping to a strict minimum any flaring, or controlled burning
of surplus gas, and venting, or the release of gases, such as
methane, into the atmosphere.
They are expected to be made public later this month as part
of a package of 2030 climate and energy policy steps to follow
on from existing 2020 rules meant to increase EU security of
supply and lower its carbon emissions.
The draft shale gas document, seen by Reuters, says shale
can play a part in helping to avoid the use of coal, which emits
around twice as much carbon as gas, and to curb reliance on
imports from suppliers such as Russia.
Some eastern EU nations are almost 100 percent dependent on
Russian gas and are locked into expensive contracts linked to
The United States, in contrast, has benefited from a shale
gas revolution, which has drastically reduced its gas and
Although lower than Asian prices, EU natural gas prices are
between three and four times higher than in the United States,
putting pressure on energy intensive industries, such as
aluminium and the chemical sector, the Commission document says.
At the same time, it underlines previous comment from the
executive that shale gas would have a much more limited impact
in Europe, where public opposition is strong and geology is very
Prospects in Poland, which like Britain has high hopes of
developing shale reserves, have so far disappointed energy
majors such as ExxonMobil, which withdrew from Polish
shale gas exploration in 2012.
"In a best case scenario, it (shale gas) could maintain the
EU's gas import dependency (currently approaching 70 percent) at
a stable level," the draft document said.
The Commission does not comment on unpublished documents.