Belgian concerns about Dutch shale gas plans

Belgian Burgomasters in Northern and Eastern Limburg province have voiced their concerns about Dutch shale gas production plans at the other side of the Belgo-Dutch border. The Dutch government announced that research has been started, which triggered unrest in Kinrooi, Maasmechelen and Maaseik.

Shale gas production involves a technique called "fracking". A mixture of water, sand and chemical substances is being inserted in the earth under high pressure to force fractures in layers situated deep below the ground (between 1,000 and 5,000 metres deep). The pressurized fluids cause fractures, which release shale gas.

The technique pollutes the ground and can cause minor earthquakes, but for some it is the perfect way to guarantee energy supplies without being dependent on oil or gas supplies from abroad.

Maasmechelen Burgomaster Raf Terwingen (Christian democrat) wants to wait for the outcome of the Dutch report about the pros and cons before making any firm statements. "There are conflicting views on how the technique impacts on our landscape."

Lommel Mayor Peter Vanvelthoven is absolutely against and hopes the Dutch plans will not become reality. The Netherlands have plans to extend shale gas production to the south-eastern part of the country, near the border with Belgium.

The technique has triggered criticism in the Netherlands as well. In the northern area of Groningen, it is causing small earthquakes on a regular basis, probably due to fracking. This causes damage to houses of local residents, such as cracks in the walls.