July 16, 2013 (TSR-Platts) – 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.
Montebourg is responsible for the regeneration of industrial growth, which has been hit hard in France by stringent Labor laws and high energy prices.
There have been repeated calls to the government, from industry and some energy companies, to reopen the debate over hydraulic fracturing, in order to reduce energy prices and improve energy security.
Last week, France’s Council of State referred an appeal against the shale gas ban, made by US company Schuepbach Energy, to the Constitutional Council.
Schuepbach Energy held two of the three shale gas permits annulled by the French government when it banned shale gas exploration in 2011, and filed the appeal on constitutional grounds.
France is currently carrying out a national debate on energy policy ahead of expected legislation in the fall.
Hollande has pledged to reduce the share of nuclear power from 75% of generation to 50% by 2025, and replace most of this capacity with renewable power.