Risks can be minimised 

LNG alone cannot replace Russian gas imports. That's why fracking makes sense. 

Text: Ludwig Möhring
Illustrations: Andrea Ucini

Europe is experiencing the worst gas crisis since natural gas was first being used more than 50 years ago. The loss of Russian supply cannot be compensated overnight and certainly not at the old prices, because on the global market there is just not enough natural gas to go around. Those who think LNG could replace the entire Russian supply in short order don’t seem to consider that the volume Russia used to sell to Europe is the equivalent of roughly 30 percent of the global LNG market. However, as a buyer of LNG Europe is competing with other regions, above all with Asia. This situation will not change for years to come.

Even after 2024 natural gas will remain in short supply and Europe will need to pay high prices on the global market if it wants to get some of it. Wholesale prices of around EUR 20/MWh are a thing of the past, never to return. 2023 prices currently stand at more than EUR 100/MWh. There is no telling if and when additional supply can bring them down to EUR 50/MWh again.

But additional supply is the only chance we have. Germany is hoping for more investment in LNG on a global level when the only thing we actually have any control over is domestic production of natural gas. Exploiting the large shale gas reserves in Germany would require fracking, which could deliver ten billion cubic metres of natural gas, possibly even more. This would allow Germany to cover up to 20 percent of its demand domestically. Clearly, this approach would be the responsible political choice. 

However, fracking has a political history in Germany. Scepticism runs deep – despite decades of experience and safe fracking methods to exploit conventional reserves.

What the government needs to do to dispel any concerns is ensure an unbiased review of this option. The commission of experts on fracking established by the previous federal government has found that the technology has evolved and risks can be minimised by taking appropriate measures. We need to have a more objective debate on what kind of framework we could develop for shale gas production. Seeing as we might be facing a critical situation regarding both gas supply and gas prices for many years to come, any decision must be based on sufficient insights. It simply won't do to be stuck in the arguments of the past. 

No one denies that natural gas production in Germany must be aligned with the Paris climate goals. In fact, there is a lot to be said for domestic production in this regard, too, as it avoids the carbon emissions associated with LNG imports. What's more, shale gas production doesn't compete with renewables but could in fact contribute to securing affordable energy on the way towards a climate-neutral economy. As long as we are using natural gas, it makes sense to produce it domestically.  


Part of the problem, not the solution

The gas shortage is a smokescreen. Only renewable energies can save us. Fracking cannot.

Text: Juliane Dickel
Illustrations: Andrea Ucini

The Paris Agreement aims to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius – the lower the better. It is not about ideology but about what kind of world we and our descendants will live in, how much land will disappear into the ocean, how dramatic the global refugee crisis will get, to what degree biodiversity (which is also our economic foundation) will be lost and how much all of this will diminish our well-being and our prosperity. Because one thing is clear: major tipping points have irreversibly been crossed, and some developments that cannot be undone have already happened. Others are to follow very soon.

Even the most advanced technological innovations that might still be developed will not be able to reset flora and fauna to its former state. That is not even to speak of the cost society will have to bear in order to adjust. The more dramatic the change, the more inhospitable our planet will become and the more fierce the battle for the remaining habitats will be. 

What does that have to do with fracking, you ask? Well, as a method of fossil energy production fracking is part of the problem, not part of the solution. Burning gas produces carbon emissions. Factoring in the methane leakage during production, distribution and storage, natural gas – especially natural gas produced by fracking – is in many cases just as bad as coal when it comes to its climate footprint.  

Invoking the current debate about a possible gas and electricity shortage is a smokescreen. 

It would take years to build the necessary infrastructure, and it could be up to ten years before there is a significant supply of gas. Contrast that with cost-efficient and competitive renewables. Ramped up in an environmentally friendly way they could deliver enough energy much quicker. 

What's more, fracking consumes a lot of water, which is becoming increasingly scarce due to climate change. Therefore, there are bound to be much fiercer battles for water and land in fracking regions. Not to mention the risk of polluting groundwater and surface water, because the frack fluid rising to the top contains fracking chemicals and can be further contaminated by heavy metals and radioactive substances that exist naturally in the ground. Claims that there were more innocuous chemicals nowadays have not been proven as of yet. Setting aside the question of how harmful “more innocuous” still is, all the other problems remain.

So, it really comes down to the question: why should we bet on this technology only to produce even more climate-damaging oil and gas when there are real environmentally friendly alternatives? Rather than create detrimental lock-in effects we need to invest in the expansion of ecologically sound renewable energy and green hydrogen from renewable sources. On top of that, we need to become more energy-efficient and save energy wherever possible.  

Ludwig Möhring, Managing Director at the German association for natural gas, petroleum and geothermal energy (BVEG). 

Ludwig Möhring, Managing Director at the German association for natural gas, petroleum and geothermal energy (BVEG). 

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