08 Jul 2014

Launch of the European science and technology network on unconventional hydrocarbon extraction

Opening session speakers
Opening session on the policy framework (from left to right): Marco Landolfi, Permanent Representation of Italy to the European Union, Karl Falkenberg, Vladimir Šucha and Dominique Ristori, Directors-General of DG ENV, DG JRC and DG ENER respectively.
© EU, 2014

To deepen the knowledge on extraction technologies and practices of unconventional gas and oil and minimise potential health and environment risks, the European Commission today has launched the European science and technology network on unconventional hydrocarbon extraction. The network will be established and managed by the JRC, on the basis of the guidance provided by the Steering group composed of the Directorates-General (DGs) for energy and for environment, as well as for climate action, for research & innovation and for enterprise and industry. The DGs for environment and energy will co-chair the Steering group.

The network aims to bring together practitioners from industry, research, academia and civil society, so as to ensure a fair and balanced exchange of ideas. It will collect, analyse and review results from exploration projects and assess the development of technologies used to extract unconventional gas and oil. Today's launch event has presented the objectives, working modalities and expected results of the network and has provided the opportunity for first interaction with interested stakeholders.

The newly established network will structure the dialogue among the stakeholders, fostering open information and knowledge sharing. Research activities and results will be presented and discussed and gaps in R&D needs will be identified. It will examine knowledge gained from exploration and demonstration projects and identify and assess emerging technologies including their economic, environment and climate impacts.

In its role of coordinator of the network, the JRC counts on its expertise in the field – its current research on unconventional gas and oil sources focuses on shale gas and its impact on EU's energy security, market and resources objectives. JRC work so far has included analyses on alternative technologies to hydraulic fracturing, as well as resources estimation, exploitation, technologies, techno-economic assessment and market impact. A study on the environmental impact has explored different scenarios complemented by a risk assessment of potential human and ecosystem health impacts attributable to the accidental or operational release of chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing of shale formations, based on a life cycle approach.

The JRC has long been involved in related research on identifying CH₄ emissions from surface and remote sensing observations and the potential environmental impacts of shale gas extraction on water usage and quality, an area where a lot more research is still needed.

The JRC is also working together with the Member States on the review of the Reference Document on Best Available Techniques (BREF) for the management of tailings and waste-rock in mining activities, focusing on the management of waste from on-shore extractive industries.

JRC Institutes