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Fracking: an option for Germany? Science academies identify opportunities, risks and uncertainties

26. March 2024

Fracking in unconventional reservoirs was banned in Germany in 2016 and since then seemed to have been shelved. However, the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine has created new conditions for German energy policy and severely restricted the availability of natural gas for Germany. How can the gas, which is no longer being supplied, be replaced? This question will continue to be of significance for Germany's energy supply in the years to come. Could fracking make a relevant contribution to the security of supply? The Academy's Project “Energy Systems of the Future” (ESYS) discusses the opportunities and risks of fracking and identifies uncertainties.

The question of whether and to what extent fracking in unconventional reservoirs in Germany can or should contribute to the security of supply is experiencing an unexpected renaissance for many people due to the loss of Russian natural gas supplies. This allows the Academy's Project “Energy Systems of the Future” (ESYS) an opportunity to provide an overview. In the publication of Discussion Paper, “Fracking: an option for Germany? Opportunities, Risks and Uncertainties of Fracking in Unconventional Reservoirs” experts from the joint initiative of the science academies acatech, Leopoldina and the Union of German Academies discuss whether domestic fracking could make a meaningful contribution to Germany's energy supply.

Environmental risks and short-term contribution to the security of supply

Potential environmental risks have so far dominated the debate on fracking. However, ESYS experts conclude that this environmental damage could be largely avoided in Germany. Prerequisites for this are clear requirements to protect the environment and use the best available technology. However, residual environmental risks remain.

There is potential to extract natural gas from German soils: An estimated 6 to 12% of Germany's current annual natural gas consumption could be fracked. According to the experts, however, it would take at least three years until first drilling take place. This does not include the time it would take to negotiate the fracking ban both politically and socially and, if necessary, to abolish it. From their point of view, a short-term contribution to the security of supply is therefore not to be expected. However, beyond this period, could fracking contribute to an affordable energy supply while at the same reducing CO2 emissions?

Economic efficiency and the contribution to climate protection

Fracking in Germany could increase security of supply to a certain extent in the medium and long term and reduce Germany’s dependency on imports. However, within the framework of the German and European climate targets, the use of shale gas would be limited in time. In addition, increased easing on the global natural gas markets and falling demand in Germany could lead to more significant price pressure for domestic natural gas extraction. Therefore, it is uncertain whether and under what conditions companies can set up a business model without state support.

According to the experts, the impact of fracking in Germany on the climate is also uncertain. Domestic natural gas would have a lower CO2 emission factor than imported liquefied natural gas (LNG), as no energy is required to liquefy and transport the gas. However, the increased quantities of natural gas could create an incentive for the further use of natural gas and thus delay climate protection measures.

Karen Pittel, Director of the ifo Center for Energy, Climate and Resources and Deputy Chair of the ESYS Board of Directors, sums up this situation as follows: “Given the significant rejection by society, the limited time horizon and the uncertain cost and price development, it is unknown what contribution fracking can make to strengthening the security of supply in Germany. Therefore, there needs to be an open discussion about potentials and conflicting goals.”


  • Jörn Gierds
  • Deputy Head of Project Office / Scientific Officer
  • Energy Systems of the Future

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