Shale Gas Exploration Licenses: Geological and Hydrogeological Situation in the State Hessen, Germany

Johann-Gerhard Fritsche1, Jan Brodsky1, Heiner Heggemann1, Michaela Hoffmann1, Martin Hottenrott1, Matthias Kracht1, Thomas Reischmann1, Fred Rosenberg1, Inga Schlösser-Kluger1
1 Hessisches Landesamt für Umwelt und Geologie

O 14.1 in Fracking for energy and its role for groundwater and soils

30.05.2014, 15:00-15:20, H18, NW II



At the beginning of the year 2012, an application for a shale gas exploration license covering a large area in northern Hessen was made. As target formations for the exploration, Carboniferous and Upper Permian shales were designated. In this context, the Geological Survey of Hessen (HLUG) was charged to prepare a report considering the geological potential for unconventional hydrocarbons in Hesse and the possible risks of exploration and production. Moreover, the applicability of three existing comprehensive German studies concerning shale gas and fracking was to be assessed for the special regional situation in Hesse and recommendations for the further approach were to be given.

For the characterization of the geological and hydrogeological situation, the concerned area in northern Hesse has been divided into 8 so called “potential regions for shale gas”. For each of these regions an evaluation of different structural regions, of possible target horizons, of the types of reservoir, of the overlying rocks and especially their function as hydrogeological barriers, an analysis of the geological and tectonic inventory and of the importance for drinking water supply as well as for mineral and geothermal springs has been carried out. The lack of data especially for the deep subsurface in most regions is obvious, and so the conclusions concerning the existence of shale gas as well as the integrity of overlying strata have to be understood as a first overview.

The methodology of describing the geological and hydrogeological situation has been partly derived from the methodologies developed in the three existing German studies. The differences of the geological settings in Hessen to those examined in the studies however require some modifications in the conclusions concerning the risks.

The characterization of the potential regions has led to a division into three classes regarding possible shale gas contents, the existence and integrity of barriers and the possibility of induced seismicity. For each of the areas classified in this way, a second areal analysis has been performed with a multitude of different types of land uses and subsurface uses. For example, drinking water protection areas, protection areas for mineral and thermal springs, mining areas, flood plains, FFH-regions and nature protection areas, settlement and industrial areas, traffic infrastructure etc. have been included. As a result, only one of the 8 potential regions for shale gas shows a possible potential for shale gas resources as well as possibly appropriate hydraulic barriers. It covers only 16% of the total area of the exploration area applied for. Nearly 65% of this potential region is covered with protection areas and areas of different public interests.

If exploration and production of shale gas should be pursued under these conditions, extremely high efforts have to be made, particularly in relation to the integrity of the overlying barriers and the monitoring of each groundwater storey.

Brodsky, J.; Fritsche, J.-G.; Heggemann, H.; Hoffmann, M.; Hottenrott, M.; Kracht, M.; Liedmann, W.; Reischmann, T.; Rosenberg, F. & Schlösser-Kluger, I. (2013): Stellungnahme zu vorliegenden Gutachten zum Fracking in Deutschland im Zusammenhang mit dem Aufsuchungsantrag der BNK Deutschland GmbH auf Kohlenwasserstoffe im Erlaubnisfeld „Adler South“. Handlungsempfehlungen aus geologischer und hydrogeologischer Sicht. HLUG, Wiesbaden (Download unter http://www.hlug.de/start/geologie/rohstoffe/kohlenwasserstoffe.html)


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Letzte Änderung 31.10.2013