Fracking Voelkersen, Germany

Description
Since the beginning of gas extraction (1992) over 13 billion cubic meters of gas have been produced in the Voelkersen field (near Bremen, Lower Saxony) by RWE Dea AG an international oil and gas company headquartered in Hamburg. The firm has applied hydraulic fracturing, (short fracking, extracting natural gas from shale rock), which creates contamination of surrounding water sources. The contaminated water must be removed and stored safely. For doing so, the RWE Dea has build a 22 km long waste water pipeline close to Voelkersen. This pipeline passes through a water conservation area. Water containing benzene has leaked through for a long time from these waste water pipes. After 10 years of usage, the pipeline plastic can no longer stay intact and starts leaking benzene. In Novermber 2011, an anonymous whistle blower the local branch of Friends of the Earth Germany about the leaking of benzene from the pipeline. The subsequent investigations revealed that benzene leakes from the pipeline at nearly every measuring point. Later another anyonmous tip revealed that not only benzene but also mercury leakes from the pipeline. These incidents and two fracking related earthquakes with magnitudes between 2,5-2,8 in 2011/2012 have created a massive mobilization against fracking in the region. Local initiatives (http://www.nofracking.de/; Gegen-Gasbohren.de), local and national environmental justice organisations (e.g. Greenpeace), political actors (Alliance 90/The Greens), and media (e.g. Weser Kurier) mobilized against fracking. Many of them in collaboration with each other. The public scrutinizing of the waste water line at the edge of the water reserve in Voelkersen has had some success. The pipeline and similar ones in Lower Saxony have been removed. All contaminated areas will be rehabilitated. The compression of the reservoir water in the water protection area has been (temporarily) stopped. Flaring an open flame was stopped, and instead, a closed system is used.

Basic Data
NameFracking Voelkersen, Germany
CountryGermany
ProvinceNiedersachsen
SiteVoelkersen
Accuracy of LocationMEDIUM regional level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Fossil Fuels and Climate Justice/Energy
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Uranium extraction
Shale gas fracking
Oil and gas exploration and extraction
Pollution related to transport (spills, dust, emissions)
Specific CommoditiesNatural Gas
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsOver 13 billion cubic meters of gas have been produced in the Voelkersen field
Project Area (in hectares)no data
Type of PopulationRural
Potential Affected Population14,400
Company Names or State EnterprisesRWE Dea AG from Germany
Relevant government actorsGovernment of Lower Saxony, Lower Saxony State Office for Mining, Energy and Geology (LBEG): in Hanover
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersGreenpeace, Friends of the Earth Germany
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)MEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
When did the mobilization beginIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups MobilizingInternational ejos
Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Forms of MobilizationDevelopment of a network/collective action
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Public campaigns
Impacts
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Air pollution, Soil contamination, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity, Mine tailing spills
Potential: Groundwater pollution or depletion, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems
OtherPollution of soil, hydro systems with benzene, mercury
Health ImpactsPotential: Other environmental related diseases
Outcome
Project StatusIn operation
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseEnvironmental improvements, rehabilitation/restoration of area
Technical solutions to improve resource supply/quality/distribution
New Environmental Impact Assessment/Study
Development of AlternativesNo fracking, only extraction of natural gas without environmental risks
Do you consider this as a success?Not Sure
Why? Explain briefly.The mobilisation has had some success. The pipeline and similar ones in Lower Saxony have been removed. All contaminated areas will be rehabilitated. The compression of the reservoir water in the water protection area has been (temporarily) stopped. Flaring an open flame was stopped, and instead, a closed system is used. As a reaction to the mobilization against fracking in Germany or not German utilitiy giant RWE is currently looking for a buyer for its RWE DEA (oil and gas extracting) business. The highest offers came from a U.S. private equity firm and KKR & Co and Kufpec as well as from Russian tycoon Mikhail Fridman. This deal may worsen the situation of people and protesters in Voelkersen.
Sources and Materials
Legislations

German Mining Law

References

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Links

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Media Links

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News (in German with English subtitles)
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Meta Information
ContributorGabriel Weber
Last update24/06/2014
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