Denmark's first potential fracking project dropped

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Denmark's first potential fracking project dropped
Total's departure ends the possibility of fracking in Denmark – for now. Photo: Henning Bagger/Scanpix

French gas giant Total is pulling out of its controversial shale gas exploration project in northern Denmark after failing to find sufficient deposits.


Total’s shale gas exploration in the Vendsyssel district in northern Jutland has been permanently shut down, the Danish Energy Agency (Energistyrelsen) said on Monday evening. 
The French gas company said it did not find enough shale gas deposits to make its efforts worthwhile, thus shutting down what would have been Denmark’s first ever fracking project. 
“The drilling results have not fulfilled the company’s expectations to the reservoir conditions and seam thickness. There will therefore be no further work with the drilling, which is now shut down permanently,” the Energy Agency wrote in a press release. 
According to the company, the shale gas reserves found in northern Jutland were around 40 metres thick – half as thick as what would be needed for extraction. 
Total had already announced in May that it was giving up on its shale gas exploration in northern Zealand for similar reasons. 
The northern Jutland site has been the centre of controversy since local officials granted Total approval to explore for shale gas in June 2014 despite strong protests from the local community and concerns from organizations including Greenpeace and the Danish Society of Nature Conservation. A small group of activists have been camping outside the exploration site in protest
In May 2015, the Danish Energy Agency ordered an immediate stop to drilling after it was revealed that Total had used the chemical product Null Foam – used in the so-called fracking process to extract shale gas – in its exploration despite it not being approved as part of the local authorities’ environmental impact assessment. After the company vowed “no future mistakes”, it was allowed to resume its drilling a week later. 
Energy and Climate Minister Lars Christian Lilleholt said that no new shale gas exploration projects will be approved in Denmark any time soon. 
“A temporary stop to new applications for shale gas has been implemented and that will continue to apply. That means that new applicants as of now can not receive permission for new shale gas drilling,” Lilleholt told TV2. 
Total's license, however, runs through June 2016 and the company said it is considering new shale gas exploration projects in northern Jutland. 
"We now need to make some considerations on what we will do from here. There are two options: either one continues with new test drilling in a new location or one stops," Total spokesman Henrik Nicolaisen told news agency Ritzau, adding that the company has already spent some 300 million kroner ($44 million, 40 million euros) on its Vendsyssel exploration. 
Greenpeace, one of the organizations to oppose potential fracking in Denmark, hailed Total’s departure. 
“It is fantastically happy news that Total is giving up on the project. It has always been a crazy idea that Denmark, as a densely populated country with an ambitious groundwater protection programme, should be subjected to shale gas production. For both environmental and climate-related reasons, it is very good that the project is now scrapped,” spokesman Tarjei Haaland told Information.
Fracking is the pumping of pressurized, chemical-laden water into underground rock layers. Denmark is one of the few European countries alongside Britain, Poland and Romania that allows fracking, which is widely used in the United States. In the US, the process has contributed to the country's burgeoning oil and natural gas production but fracking remains deeply controversial due to concerns that it can pollute groundwater with harmful chemicals. 


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