Unconventional gas extraction: "Fracking"
The extraction of unconventional natural gas by "hydraulic fracturing" (in short: fracking) is a technology to access gas resources which cannotbe extracted by ususal methods from shales or coal seams. For this, high pressure injection of a mixture of water, sand and chemicals breaks up the matrix and allows to suction methane. A prerequisit for this are deep drill horizons (1500-5000 m) where several horizontal drills are made into the gas deposits. Along these horizontal drills, the injection leads to factures in the matrix ("fracks") which increase accessability of methane captured in the cristalline matrix.
Depending on which chemicals are used for fracking, which technologies for drilling and capturing as well as treating water flow-back are applied, and on the hydrogeological conditions at the sites, fracking can have substantial impacts on the environment, and health.
Seveal studies in the US and the EU dealt with environmental and health risks of fracking, in Germany the Federal Environment Agency (UBA) and the State of Northrhine-Westfalia published first studies. As part of the InfoDialog Fracking, critical research on fracking projects of ExxonMobil were carried out for several sites in Northern Germany.
Oeko-Institut and IINAS published in May 2012 a first brief expertise on energy and greenhouse gas balances of shale gas in Germany, prepared for the InfoDialog (see downloads).
IINAS continued to analyze and update energy and greenhouse gas balances of shale gas as part of a study carried out for UBA from 2013-2014 which is published now: The full 600 pages report (in German) is available for download (26 MB file!) - An English Summary is availble as well.
In addition to this study, the respective life-cycle data are part of the current version of GEMIS which is publicly available.
In parallel, an analysis and comparison of international studies on GHG emissions from shale gas was carried out in 2013-2014 for ExxonMobil Germany.
IINAS also contributes its results on fracking also to the discussion on the EU level, and to the transatlantic exchange, e.g. as part of the IPCC Expert Group on Unconventional Gas and Oil Extraction.