EERA Shale Gas Joint Program

SP3: Environmental impact & footprint

Environmental impact and footprint associated with large scale shale gas development is of major concern to public, stakeholders and policy makers. Current knowledge on the effects of shale gas exploitation mainly originates from shale gas practices in the United States. Due to differences in geological settings and societal environment between European member states and the United States, a common independent European knowledge basis is required to decide on the fate of shale gas in Europe and implement proper regulations.

The main objective of this sub-programme is to establish such a knowledge basis through (1) compiling a comprehensive inventory of risks, impact and footprints by extending and integrating national research programs, (2) applying knowledge to the European situation, (3) standardize methodologies to quantify impact, footprint and risks for European shale gas plays, and (4) determine potential risk mitigation measures and boundary conditions for minimum impact and footprint.

Different research tasks will be carried out in six work packages on (1) impact of surface activities on human health, safety and environment, (2) impact of hydraulic fracturing and gas production, (3) impact of wells and requirements of well design, (4) impact on water resources and optimum water management, (5) standardized methodologies for baselines, benchmarks and risk assessment, (6) measures to mitigate risks and minimize footprint. The tasks will be performed, mostly in parallel, over a 3 year time frame (2013 – 2016) starting with compilation and evaluation of national research (year 1), followed by extension of existing research and on addressing research niches that are specific for the European Union (year 2) and integration of the research, development of standard methodologies, and dissemination of quantified risks, impact and footprint (year 3). Milestones include a website to build and disseminate the knowledge basis, and annual progress reports and workshops.

The key expertise, equipment, and infrastructure of 18 research institutes from 10 European member states (total committed humane resource of ~36 py/y) will be used to carry out the different research tasks. Contributing member states cover the most important geopolitical regions where shale gas development may play a (future) role. Shale gas development is at different stages in the contributing member states (i.e. from moratorium to full operation). Accordingly, all aspects related to the environmental impact and footprint of shale gas development can be covered in the sub-programme.