Tuesday, December 27, 2011

London (Platts)
11 May 2011
France's lower house, the National Assembly, Wednesday passed a bill banning shale oil and gas exploration.

The proposed law bans all unconventional exploration of hydrocarbons using hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, techniques, and is to be examined by the senate in the coming weeks.

Some 287 members of parliament voted for the bill and 186 voted against.

The government of President Nicolas Sarkozy has given the draft law, submitted by Christian Jacob, the parliamentary head of the ruling UMP party, an "accelerated" status, meaning the bill is read just once by the lower and upper houses.

Following increasing opposition, the French government has halted all shale oil and gas drilling activity until two separate government impact reports are published in June.

Before then, France had issued three permits for shale gas exploration -- two to US firm Scheupbach Energy and the other to France's Total -- as well as three for shale oil.

The proposed law stipulates that the current holders of shale exploration permits would have two months to declare which method of drilling they would use and their permits would be repealed if they indicated the fracking technique.

According to the AFP parliamentary news service, the bill suffered no major amendments during its examination by MPs overnight Tuesday, despite calls from pro-green party members to take the ban further.

The main opposition Socialist party, and green parties, have opposed the final bill, calling for the blanket repeal of all shale drilling permits already submitted. This was included in an initial draft of the bill but later removed.