Managing Environmental Challenges During the First Exploration Well for Shale Gas in Denmark

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Since 2010, interest in unconventional resources has grown in Europe with several companies revealing their interest in shale gas. Among them, Total held an 80% stake (with the Danish state-owned oil and gas company Nordsøfonden owning the remaining 20%) in the License 1/10 (Nordjylland) license in Denmark. Denmark is known as a leading country in Europe where associations (especially green organizations) play an important role in the debate on the energy mix and on the protection of the environment. The onshore license covered an area of about 3000 km². Following geosciences studies, the first exploration well was drilled in 2015. The activities involved exploration drilling, with the potential for hydraulic fracturing in the future, which has caught the attention of stakeholders.

This paper presents the environmental studies concerning the exploration drilling activities on License 1/10, environmental baseline study, environmental impact assessment, and monitoring. The study’s methodology, outputs, and permitting process are presented, as well as the concerns raised, in particular during public consultations. Monitoring results before, during, and after drilling operations are presented and discussed with regard to stakeholders’ environmental concerns. The paper points out the lessons to be learned from this exploration phase for nonconventional resources in a sensitive societal context. These findings can also be applied as shale gas exploration moves forward and later for a potential shale gas development phase.

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