OR/15/066 Public introduction

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Cuss, R J, Wiseall, A C, Hennissen, J A I, Waters, C N, Kemp, S J, Ougier-Simonin, A, Holyoake, S, and Haslam, R B. 2015. Hydraulic fracturing: a review of theory and field experience. British Geological Survey Internal Report, OR/15/066.

Public introduction

M4ShaleGas stands for Measuring, monitoring, mitigating and managing the environmental impact of shale gas and is funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme. The main goal of the M4ShaleGas project is to study and evaluate potential risks and impacts of shale gas exploration and exploitation. The focus lies on four main areas of potential impact: the subsurface, the surface, the atmosphere, and social impacts.

The European Commission's Energy Roadmap 2050 identifies gas as a critical fuel for the transformation of the energy system in the direction of lower CO2 emissions and more renewable energy. Shale gas may contribute to this transformation.

Shale gas is — by definition — a natural gas found trapped in shale, a fine grained sedimentary rock composed of mud. There are several concerns related to shale gas exploration and production, many of them being associated with hydraulic fracturing operations that are performed to stimulate gas flow in the shales. Potential risks and concerns include for example the fate of chemical compounds in the used hydraulic fracturing and drilling fluids and their potential impact on shallow ground water. The fracturing process may also induce small magnitude earthquakes. There is also an ongoing debate on greenhouse gas emissions of shale gas (CO2 and methane) and its energy efficiency compared to other energy sources There is a strong need for a better European knowledge base on shale gas operations and their environmental impacts particularly, if shale gas shall play a role in Europe’s energy mix in the coming decennia. M4ShaleGas’ main goal is to build such a knowledge base, including an inventory of best practices that minimise risks and impacts of shale gas exploration and production in Europe, as well as best practices for public engagement.

The M4ShaleGas project is carried out by 18 European research institutions and is coordinated by TNO-Netherlands Organization for Applied Scientific Research.