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The development of France’s prospective shale gas and shale oil resources are back in the spotlight as the result of comments this week by the Minister of Industrial Renewal. Speaking before an audience that included senior executives from leading industrial players, Arnaud Montebourg raised the possibility that the existing ban on the use of hydraulic fracturing in unconventional hydrocarbon exploration and exploitation may be open to review.

“It’s not a banned subject,” commented Montebourg.   “We must confront it. For the moment, there is no government position.”

Montebourg’s comments placed his colleague, the Ministry of Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy, on the defensive.

In a television interview Friday, Delphine Batho, whose ministry is responsible for environmental matters said, “the government will not reconsider the ban on hydraulic fracturing.”

Minister Batho, who is known to be opposed to any review of the ban, said the government would maintain the prohibition because of uncertainties about the consequences for the environment and health.

Despite Batho’s comments, a review of unconventionals appears to be in the cards.  The Industrial Renewal Minister’s comments would have been prepared well in advance of the conference, underlying the probability of that the issue has been under active discussion within government circles.

The exploration and development of France’s significant unconventional oil and gas resources could potentially provide access to lower costs, aiding the industrial sector Montebourg is tasked with revitalizing.

Montebourg also alluded that the pursuit of France’s energy self-sufficiency meant shale gas could not be ignored.

France imposed a ban of hydraulic fracturing in July of last year.

Undoubtedly the issue of unconventional hydrocarbons will key topic at Tuesday’s meeting between environmental organizations and key government officials including Prime Minister Ayrault and Minister Batho.

The preparatory meeting is being held in advance of a major environmental conference focused on the themes of the transition to new energy sources and biodiversity, to be held in September.

Related Reading:

French Fraccing Ban: A Researcher’s Perspective

Total Plans Appeal of Shale Gas Permit Revocation

France: A Review of Hydraulic Fracturing Restrictions