PARIS (Reuters) - French Prime Minister Francois Fillon extended a moratorium on research and drilling for shale oil and gas until mid-June, pending reports commissioned by the government to establish their impact on the environment.
France has large oil and gas shale reserves, but projects have sparked controversy due to the possible impact on the environment caused by drilling techniques used on such deposits.
The hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, technique involves injecting water, sand and chemicals into rock formations at high pressure to force out oil and natural gas.
In a letter sent to various ministries on Friday, Fillon asked that a ban on research and work be extended until June 15 when the reports are due to be published. The ban had been due to expire on April 15.
France is the only European country to be considering the production of shale oil, analysts say. The Paris basin has similar traits to the Bakken formation in the United States, which has 4 billion barrels of recoverable shale oil, the International Energy Agency has said.
Paris-based independent Toreador Resources is at the vanguard of the French shale search after securing over half of the exploration permits in the Paris basin.
France awarded three gas exploration permits and three oil exploration permits for shale in 2010.
(Reporting by Laure Bretton; writing by John Irish, editing by Anthony Barker)