French President Says No Shale Gas Drilling On His Watch

July 16, 2013

Platts reports that the French President Francois Hollande will not allow shale gas exploration during his presidency, he said on national television Sunday.

France currently has a ban on shale gas exploration using hydraulic fracturing, the only current commercially viable technique.

In a wide-ranging interview on the France 2 channel on Bastille Day, the Socialist president looked to draw a line under the ongoing shale gas debate, sparked by recent comments by the industry minister and the former energy and environment minister.

"While I am president, there will be no shale gas exploration in France," said Hollande, whose five-year term ends in 2017.

France's shale gas ban was implemented in 2011 by the previous center-right government of Nicolas Sarkozy and last week industry minister Arnaud Montebourg told a parliamentary committee that future domestic shale gas exploration could be controlled by a state-owned company.

Montebourg said the current government's view is that shale gas exploration should only resume in France if more environmentally sound techniques are found.

"I think we will soon achieve the technology... where there is no pollution," he said.

Montebourg is considered one of the more left-wing members of the Socialist government and his comments came just days after the recently fired energy minister Delphine Batho said "financial forces" in the oil and gas sector were looking to overturn the government's ban on shale gas exploration.

According to the latest estimates by the US Energy Information Administration, the French mainland holds some 137 trillion cubic feet of technically recoverable shale gas, accounting for more than half of total estimates for Western Europe.

In June, a cross-party parliamentary commission said France should pursue shale gas exploration as current methods allow the management of risks to the environment.

Source: Platts, 2013.