Shale gas is a natural gas found trapped in shale, a fine grained sedimentary rock. 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 hydraulic fracturing and drilling fluids and their potential impact on shallow ground water. The fracturing process may also induce earthquakes or seismic activity in general. The European Commission's Energy Roadmap 2050 identifies (un)conventional gas as a critical fuel for the transformation of the energy system in the direction of lower CO2 emissions and more renewable energy. But the impact that (shale) gas production actually has on greenhouse gas emissions (CO2 and methane) as well as its energy efficiency compared to other energy sources is a topic of critical debate.
The goal of the M4ShaleGas project is to study and evaluate potential risks and impacts of shale gas exploration and exploitation, since there is a strong need for a better European knowledge base on shale gas operations and their environmental impact in particular if shale gas shall play a role in Europe's energy mix in the future. Therefore the M4ShaleGas project's main objective is to build such a knowledge base, including an inventory of best practices that minimize risks and impacts of shale gas exploration and production in Europe.
M4ShaleGas stands for measuring, monitoring, mitigating, and managing the environmental impact of shale gas. The project is funded by the European Union's Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme. The project is carried out by 18 European research institutions and is coordinated by TNO-Netherlands Organization for Applied Scientific Research.
There are four main areas of potential impact addressed within the project: the subsurface, the surface, the atmosphere & climate, and public perceptions. ITAS will be concerned with the latter area and focuses on researching the societal impacts of extended shale gas production in different EU member states and the potential prerequisites for a "social license to operate". ITAS will be working in close cooperation with four other research institutes, two located in the United Kingdom (University of Warwick, Cardiff University), one in Poland (Adam Mickiewicz University), and one in the Netherlands (Energy research Centre of the Netherlands (ECN)). Thus, our research on the societal impacts of shale gas and the method used for its extraction – hydraulic fracturing – will focus especially on the public perceptions common in these four EU states.
Project website: http://www.m4shalegas.eu