In the United States in particular, a technique that has become known as hydraulic fracturing or "fracking" has been applied for a number of years now in extended reach drilling as a way of extracting natural gas from layers of rock deep within the earth. During this controlled process, the injection of a liquid (water mixed with additives) and the accompanying increase in pressure creates small cracks in the rock where the natural gas is contained. The process releases the gas so that it can then be carried to the surface via drill pipes. As far as fracking technology is concerned, a distinction can be made between applications in Germany which have been tried and tested over many years ("conventional fracking") and new applications ("unconventional fracking").
To increase the level of legal certainty involved in fracking for citizens, enterprises and authorities, on 4 July the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi) and the Federal Environment Ministry (BMUB) agreed on a set of shared principles, which are to serve as the basis for drawing up a regulatory package. The two ministries want to not only tighten but also supplement the rules on fracking.