German scientists see scope for 'greener' fracking

* Geologists call for pilot projects using fracking

* Say would monitor to appease environmental concerns

* See potential to devise and export greener methods

HANOVER, Germany, June 25 (Reuters) - German geologists plan to campaign for greater public acceptance of hydraulic fracking in Europe’s biggest economy, saying there is scope to make the shale gas industry more environmentally friendly.

While German consumers are unhappy about the cost of their energy bills, there is widespread public distrust of fracking and Chancellor Angela Merkel has put legislation on the issue on hold pending a September general election.

But geologists from three leading institutions told a conference on Tuesday they will launch a programme calling for exploration of the country’s shale gas potential.

“If we could arrive at some sort of ‘green’ fracking, that would be very exportable,” said Michael Kosniowski, head of the groundwater and soil division at the Federal Institute for Geosciences (BGR).

Fracking, which involves pumping water and chemicals at high pressure thousands of metres below the ground to release gas, has created a energy boom in the United States. But some environmentalists see risks that the process will cause seismic shocks and pollute drinking water.

“We will launch what will become known as the Hanover declaration within a few weeks, setting out how we want to help facilitate research into shale gas fracking,” Hans-Joachim Kuempel, president of the BGR, told reporters.

The institute says Germany could extract 1.3 billion cubic metres of gas from reserves trapped in shale rocks, 100 times its currently declining domestic gas output.

The industry was prepared to test reductions in water use as well as biological alternatives to the chemicals, Kuempel said.

The other institutes involved are the German Research Centre for Geosciences (GFZ) in Potsdam and the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research in Halle.

Germany produces only 12 percent of the gas it consumes and imports 36 percent from Russia. (Editing by Ruth Pitchford)