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GDF Suez Considering Shale Exploration in Europe Amid French Ban

GDF Suez SA, owner of Europe’s biggest natural gas network, is considering exploring for shale oil and gas in Germany, Poland, the U.K. and in Latin America.

“We are already doing a little in Germany,” Chief Executive Officer Gerard Mestrallet told a business conference outside Paris yesterday. He also added Brazil and Chile to the list.

“For the moment, we are evaluating and analyzing,” he said later in an interview. “We will then decide.”

GDF Suez’s move into shale exploration would come amid a continued ban in its home country of France on hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, a drilling technology used to extract oil and gas. Mestrallet, along with Total SA Chief Executive Officer Christophe de Margerie, has been among the most vocal corporate executives for changes in the French policy. GDF Suez is based in Courbevoie, France.

France should ease the ban so it can estimate the size of its shale oil and gas reserves, a parliamentary report concluded in June. French President Francois Hollande said July 14 he won’t allow fracking.

“It’s unbelievable to think we are closing our eyes to shale,” Jean-Louis Schilansky, head of the oil lobby Union Francaise des Industries Petrolieres, told the same conference. “France will be isolated on this subject and that’s not tenable. We are now keeping company with Bulgaria.”

The French parliament banned fracking in 2011 under former President Nicolas Sarkozy. France and Poland have the greatest potential for recoverable shale gas in Europe, the International Energy Agency has said.

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