German chancellor Angela Merkel. Image courtesy of Christliches Medienmagazin pro/Flickr.

Germany’s notoriously strict fracking rules may get even tighter after chancellor Angela Merkel’s cabinet approved a draft law Wednesday that will effectively ban most forms of shale gas drilling.

The law would institute a near total ban on shale gas fracking but would allow for some test drilling under strict rules, Reuters said.

The German parliament must still approve the law.

Fracking wells that are shallower than about 9,842 feet would be banned along with drilling near areas that hold drinking water including reservoirs and dams.

All types of fracking would also be barred in national parks and nature reserves.

Some commercial drilling may be allowed starting in 2019 but only after a special committee has approved a specific project following successful test drilling.

Fracking for deep-lying tight gas will still be allowed but under stricter rules and with additional environmental audits.

The new law has been criticized as a step backwards for German energy independence.

The Federation of German Industries (BDI), an industry group, told Deutsche Welle that the ban places too many hurdles in front of explorers and producers.

“It’s a positive signal that extraction of shale gas in Germany is not completely out of the question. However, the requirements for extracting the gas are completely exaggerated,” BDI general manager Markus Kerber said.

German producers currently only provide about 12 percent of the country’s energy needs.

The German government’s increasing resistance to fracking has already pushed some upstreams out of the country’s plays.

In November UK-based independent Rose Petroleum said it would exit two of its German unconventional gas plays less than a year after winning the licenses citing a lack of political support for shale gas exploration.

Germany has an estimated shale gas reserve of between 0.7 trillion and 2.3 trillion cubic meters.

The country’s federal environmental agency has called fracking a “risky technology” and recommended last year that it be banned under the country’s clean water regulations.



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