Denmark suspends fracking over ‘hazardous’ chemicals

Reuters/Charles Platiau
Denmark has suspended the first exploratory drilling for shale gas which lasted only one day after it discovered that French gas-giant Total, in charge of the project, had used “unauthorized” chemicals.

"They used a product that was not part of those authorized" for the procedure, Ture Falbe-Hansen, a Danish Energy Agency spokesman told AFP Wednesday.

The type of defoamer known as Null Foam is used in fracking to extract shale gas and is considered hazardous to the environment, according to Danish public broadcaster DR.

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The chemical is not illegal, according to Henrik Nicolaisen, who leads the drilling project for Total.

"We have been in dialogue with both the municipality and the Danish Energy Agency since February and we felt that we had a common understanding that the substance could be used," he told DR, as cited by AFP.

Environmental committee chairman of Frederikshavn Council Anders Brandt Sørensen said Total’s use of the non-approved product “makes [him] very mad”.

“We will simply not accept this kind of violation of our EIA [environmental impact assessment],” he told broadcaster DR.

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Fracking, also known as hydraulic fracturing, is a process of extracting shale gas by injecting a mixture of water, sand and chemicals under high pressure deep underground in order to release hydrocarbons from between layers of rock.

Total’s unit in charge of the project said drilling on the northern tip of Jutland had started only on Monday. The Danish Energy Agency, which is part of the energy ministry, said Total was told to stop exploration on Tuesday.

Total’s shale gas project was given the go-ahead in June despite strong protests from the local community and environmentalists.

The project’s cancellation came as another blow to Total's shale plans, having previously suffered protests over its Danish project, faced a fracking ban in its own home country of France, and exited its Polish licenses.

It is unclear when, if ever, Total could resume operations; first needing to explain its actions to the Danish authorities.

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