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Unconventional gas reserves in Germany amount to trillions of cubic metres (cbm) and can be safely exploited if the right rules are in place, federal authorities said on Monday with the release of the first findings of an ongoing long-term study.

The Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources (BGR) said between 0.7 trillion and 2.3 trillion cbm of the gas could be technically extracted.

This is calculated as a 10 percent extraction rate they believe is achievable from the 6.8 trillion-22.6 trillion cbm of shale gas they have located in the country.

“Germany has a significant shale gas potential,” the Hanover-based authority said in a press statement.

It said modern drilling techniques called fracking for the exploitation of shale gas reserves could be reconciled with the need to safeguard drinking water and prevent seismic risks.

“From a geoscientific perspective, an environmentally acceptable use of these (fracking) technologies is possible, provided legally mandated rules are adhered to, necessary technical measures are taken and preliminary explorations at each site are made,” it added.

Most of the so-called unconventional deposits are located in northern Germany and some on the Upper Rhine in the south-west.

Shale gas could help to mitigate the effects of dwindling conventional gas resources, BGR said.

Indigenous gas production has dropped to 14 percent of total annual German gas consumption, which amounted to 842 billion kilowatt hours last year, according to industry figures.

Companies like ExxonMobil are among big players pushing for Germany to develop its unconventional gas despite scepticism over the novel drilling methods.

The findings by the Hanover scientists are nearly three times what ExxonMobil earlier this year estimated as German unconventional gas potential, when it pegged it at 827 billion cubic metres.

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