Spain gets serious about shale

In the years following Spain's housing bubble crash, the country's economy crumbled. Billions of dollars in bail-out money later and a current unemployment rate of 26%, the situation hasn't improved much.

But the country, which imports 99% of its oil and gas needs, is believed to be rich in shale gas, and parliament has now officially passed a law that could make Spain the newest fracturing destination.

According to Reuters, the government "said it would evaluate hydraulic fracturing." Earlier this month the EU-member amended a 1998 law on oil exploration to include hydraulic fracturing.

Despite being Europe's fifth-largest energy consumer, Spain's production of liquid fuels and natural gas is practically zero, according to the US Energy Information Administration.

But the road to shale is ridden with obstacles. Just last month the European Parliament approved legislation that would subject companies planning to use hydraulic fracturing to in-depth environmental audits. In France and Bulgaria, the method is banned.

In April, the government of the Cantabria region passed a law banning the water-intensive drilling technique. But the national legal amendment in October prevents regional governments from prohibiting fracturing, an environmnetal lawyer told Bloomberg.

A series of earthquakes along the Valencia coast in September have also increased opposition to fracturing. According to Reuters, scientists found likely links between the tremors and a natural gas project owned by Spain's ACS and Canada's Dundee Energy. A public prosecutor has launched a criminal investigation.