The Dutch government last week placed a five-year ban on commercial fracking. A final decision on the future of fracking in Holland is expected at the end of this year (2015).
This is another nail in the coffin for European fracking, which is seen as increasingly environmental unacceptable and economically unsound.
About five years ago, a shale gas boom started in Europe, with countries looking into the potential of this new fossil fuel source. Natural gas from fracking was initially advertised as "green" and "environmentally-friendly" energy. Many countries, particularly in Eastern Europe, hoped that shale gas would make them energy-independent from Russia.
However, the mood has changed and there is now strong opposition across Europe to fuel extracted via fracking.
Environmental risks with fracking
When shale gas is being "fracked," high-pressure water and chemicals are injected into the rock at depths of 1,000 to 5,000 meters below the earth's surface. Sand is then sent down to fill up the cracks and make sure they stay open. Later, natural gas passes through the sand to reach the surface.
There are concerns that the ‘cocktail of chemicals’ required to keep the sand and rocks fluid, and free from clogging up, could potentially contaminate the water table. There is also risk from earth tremors which have been experienced in both the US and northern Germany, and are suspected to be linked with natural gas drilling.
Despite the fracking boom across the United States, where mining companies say high energy prices are forcing them to look for more unconventional deposits of gas. European countries are not following suite;
France has suspended fracking activity since 2011.
Germany continues its moratorium on fracking and new laws, which should go through this summer, will restrict fracking activity to only allow scientific test-drilling under strict conditions.
Bulgaria and the Czech Republic have also suspended fracking activities due to overwhelming environmental concerns.
Norway and Sweden found that exploiting their shale gas resources wasn't economically viable and aren't pursuing this route to extraction.
In Eastern European countries, many boreholes have been drilled, particularly Poland looked to be the frontrunner of the European shale gas boom. But test wells have not performed as expected, foreign investors have pulled out and sustained environmental protests have hampered drilling plans.
As the economic advantages of fracking unravel, we may see a move to a fracking free Europe in the future.