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Fracking: minimum principles for the exploration and production of hydrocarbons using high-volume hydraulic fracturing

The risks associated with fracking led the European Commission to launch the shale gas initiative which includes a recommendation on minimum safeguards.


Commission Recommendation 2014/70/EU of 22 January 2014 on minimum principles for the exploration and production of hydrocarbons (such as shale gas) using high-volume hydraulic fracturing.


What is fracking?

Shale gas is trapped within rock structures, which need to be broken open to extract the gas. The process used for this is hydraulic fracturing or fracking. It involves cracking open the rock by inserting high volume water, sand or chemicals into a borehole.

As Europe has limited experience of fracking, safety and environmental concerns exist as risks associated with shale gas resources could extend across borders.

Commission recommendation

In response, in January 2014, the Commission issued a recommendation aimed at ensuring that those European Union (EU) countries undertaking fracking implement proper safety and environmental safeguards. This should help improve transparency for citizens, establish a clearer framework for investors and a level playing field regarding the industry's regulation.


Another component of the Commission's shale gas initiative is its communication on fracking. This looks at the potential benefits of fracking in terms of energy security, competitiveness and revenue. It also deals with environmental challenges concerning water, air pollution and land take. An impact assessment examined the socio-economic and environmental impacts of various policy options.


Whilst building on existing EU legislation, the recommendation lays out the responsibilities of EU countries undertaking fracking.

These include:

  • planning ahead and assessing environmental impact strategically before granting licences;
  • checking the quality of the air, water and soil before fracking begins;
  • capturing the gases to control air emissions;
  • ensuring public transparency when informing about any chemicals used;
  • ensuring best practices and standards throughout the drilling process.

Next steps

The recommendation’s principles should be applied within 6 months in those countries undertaking fracking. From December 2014, they should report annually to the Commission the measures put in place. The Commission will monitor the measures and review the recommendation’s effectiveness within 18 months of its publication.



Entry into force

Deadline for transposition in the Member States

Official Journal

Commission Recommendation 2014/70/EU



OJ L 39 of 8.2.2014


Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions on the exploration and production of hydrocarbons (such as shale gas) using high volume hydraulic fracturing in the EU (COM(2014) 23 final/2 of 17.3.2014 - not published in the Official Journal).

Last updated: 16.06.2014