back to article Now it gets serious: Fracking could RUIN BEER

The extraction of oil and gas by means of hydraulic fracturing – aka "fracking" – has ignited a firestorm of controvery over its possible risks, but a new report hands a powerful weapon to its opponents: fracking may harm German beer. The Telegraph reports that the German brewers' association Brauer-Bund has warned Chancellor …


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  1. Seanie Ryan


    Fracking hell...

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. Stoneshop Silver badge

      Re: oh

      Fracking hell, fracking dunkel, fracking weizen, fracking Kölsch: it'sall fracked if this goes ahead

  2. The Axe

    So the beer makers are so worried about the water quality deteriorating that they might have to install water quality analyzers at extra cost. You get the impression that they just use the pure water as is straight from the ground. As if. They will already have tons of kit filtering and cleaning the water so whatever fracking might do will have no bearing on the water the beer makers use. Plus most water will not have come from thousands of feet below the ground where fracking takes place.

    1. PhilipJ

      yeah, let's destroy our clean water supply for some quick fracking money

      1. Mips

        Water water everywhere but ne'r a drop to drink.

        I seems a bit obvious but water in Germany is not like the UK. Nor is the brewing industry. Aside from the big boys every town has it's own brewery or two and there are many pub brewers (this long before the advent of micro-breweries in the UK).

        Sorry. The water. The flat part of Germany and most of Holland is on a sand bed. In many places water is taken from this top layer of sand and this is why you will find "Wassershutsgebeit" (water protection area) all over the place. There are severe penalties for spilling polluting materials in these zones. In places the sand lays over brown coal and carbon dioxide from the slow oxidation of this dissolves in the water making it acidic. This in turn dissolves other minerals into the water; so bad in places it will eat though copper pipe. In general the water quality is poor and tastes so bad that most people drink bottled water.

        However fracking takes place at great depth so I do not see how fracking chemicals could get into the normal water supplies taken from shallow wells. There might be very small quantities of methane but in comparison to what is already in the water is this a problem?

        There might be more of a problem with deeper wells but is this realistic. Wells are cut into porous deposits which will pass water. Shale is compressed clay (or the other way round?) and aside from any cracking in it does not easily pass water.; it is not the natural place you would put a water well. If the fracking increases the porosity of the shale does this matter? There should be no wells in the vicinity so I think the answer is no.

        The question is whether there a problem with fracking, whilst there might be some local issues (there are always exceptions) there should be sufficient distance between the fracking and the water wells to safeguard supplies. The rest is hysteria.

        Sorry for being serious for once.

    2. Eddy Ito

      Why wouldn't they use the water straight from the ground? It's often as clean if not cleaner than the average municipal supply. It isn't like they are using surface water that is probably contaminated with e. coli, giardia or something else. Wells often tap into confined underground aquifers hundreds of feet deep and industrial water wells may easily reach thousands of feet and penetrate aquifers in bedrock and the water well itself may be fracked to provide greater output. Of all the confined and artesian wells my friends and family have had over the years only one had more than 150 ppm total dissolved solids and that was a result of it being in a limestone deposit. It has only been the shallow or dug wells that get much turbidity. I wouldn't be surprised if the breweries weren't located where they are as a result of an easily accessible artesian water source.

      Fracking a gas well is usually done on an existing well after is has had some horizontal drilling. It may be an old well with a considerable straight depth to the main shaft but the horizontal run may start only part way down and might not be as deep as you think. If done right both types of well can coexist but it only takes one yahoo to not pay attention and ruin either industry for an area.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Thumb Up

        "Why wouldn't they use the water straight from the ground? It's often as clean if not cleaner than the average municipal supply. "

        The standards for European drinking water are now so tight that it is increasingly uncommon that we can use borehole water without some form of treatment. For example, quite a few boreholes in Warwickshire in England were used for decades until they fell foul of new EU arsenic limits, others on manganese, and across much of the entire country on nitrates. Despite having been used for donkeys years we had to either blend the water from different sources to reduce specific "contaminants" to below the EU limit, install expensive treatment plant, or abandon the boreholes. It cost money, but technically meeting the new standards wasn't a problem.

        I worked in the water industry doing capital programme management for ten years or so, and there's no reason why fracking would threaten water extraction and treatment. Certainly the frackers should pay for any additional monitoring, and be held liable for any additional treatment needed, but the water industry can turn just about anything into safe drinking water, so in the highly unlikely worst case, they see their profits drop a bit, and the water industry have to do a bit more treatment at the frackers expense.

    3. Helldesk Dogsbody

      Considering the fact that some of the character of a decent ale, beer or whiskey comes from the water used to produce it I think you'll find that the better ones are reliant on a clean, natural source that isn't heavily filtered to retain the same flavour. OK, so where I am the local brewery Burtonises the water as they prefer the taste produced but the majority of the others don't.

      As others have pointed out, the breweries will most likely have been placed there in the first instance because of the water source and yes, that tends be quite a ways below the ground.

    4. itzman

      Exactly so

      If their beer has to be comprised of ONLY H2O then they are already well in breach of their own regulations, cos what comes out of the ground or down the stream is TEEMING with dissolved chemicals.

      Sodium calcium and magnesium carbonates, probably not a few sulphates of the above metals. Plus iron oxides.

      If its peaty steam probably a fair mixture of organics as well.

      Fracking is generally well (sic!) below the water table anyway.

      Which leads to the inevitable conclusion that this is nothing to do with beer, water quality or anything but a naked commercial interest in ensuring that only the filthiest water polluting lignite is used in conjunction with the disastrous whirlygigs and solar panels to destroy the German economy.

  3. Don Jefe

    Kuwait Is Not Sinking

    At one point in time learned people were convinced that pumping vast amounts of oil out of the Earth would cause the ground to sink and possibly increase the speed of continental drift. They were wrong...

    Fracking has to be managed certainly, but I think the biggest problem with the whole thing is the extremely arrogant way the industry has approached the issue. They just march in and steamroll over objections or just patronize people. They could save themselves a lot of trouble if they didn't send a bunch of knobs to do a diplomats job. Plus the term 'fracking' is just terrible marketing, the name is awfully easy to make sound evil.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Kuwait Is Not Sinking, but Houston, Tx is

      This has been known for many years in Texas.

      1. alan buxey

        Re: Kuwait Is Not Sinking, but Houston, Tx is

        yes Khaleesi, this is known. You know nothing Don.

      2. Anony-mouse

        Re: Kuwait Is Not Sinking, but Houston, Tx is

        And the reason that Houston is sinking primarily lies not with oil and gas extraction, but rather with water extraction of the main water aquifer that the area depends on for their water supply. Source is as follows:

        - Look under the Gulf Coast Aquifer header where this is stated.

        And in my experience working in the oilfield, "fracking" is usually done on formations wayyyy deeper than any formation that contains potable water. I'm not saying that care and sound engineering decisions shouldn't be made when fracking a well, but it can and is done safely all the time offshore where I primarily work at.

        1. pixl97

          Re: Kuwait Is Not Sinking, but Houston, Tx is

          I'd like to know what company this is that has a %100 record of nothing going wrong on a well site? Maybe you mean 99.9% safety record which still be around 1500 incidents a year in the U.S. The incident rate of contamination is very low, but at lest in the U.S. there is a large lobby that pays senators to lie and say it doesn't happen.

      3. tony2heads

        Re: Kuwait Is Not Sinking, but Houston, Tx is

        So is Groningen with the removal of gas from the Dutch gas fields

    2. John Smith 19 Gold badge

      Re: Kuwait Is Not Sinking

      " They just march in and steamroll over objections or just patronize people."

      I think you should qualify that with "in America."

      Because it was dear ol' Shrub that specifically put in exemptions in the Clean Air and Clean Water acts to allow them to stick it more or less anywhere and pump whatever they wanted down it to open up the pores.

      A big thank you to his old oil buddies for their solid (gold) support.

      In other countries operators have to be abide by somewhat tighter regulations.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Lager is near frozen gnats urine. It is NOT beer

    Yeah. Like it sez. In a contest between a pint of well-kept Abbot vs. NFGU, there is no contest.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Re: Lager is near frozen gnats urine. It is NOT beer

      Try going to the Munich Oktoberfest and saying that...

      Been there twice now - Fosters it ain't.

      1. Adam 1

        Re: Lager is near frozen gnats urine. It is NOT beer

        On behalf of my antipode brethren, I offer my apologies for Fosters

      2. h3

        Re: Lager is near frozen gnats urine. It is NOT beer

        Mutzig Old Lager is pretty good.

        I normally just drink Chimay / Westmalle

        (Dunno whether it is beer or not it is bier. People call real Ale stuff that has hops.)

        Bitter and Lager is at least somewhat unambiguously defined.

    2. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Re: Lager is near frozen gnats urine. It is NOT beer

      Most english larger and US mass produced Lager is indeed junk. Most of the German stuff is some of the best non proper beer in the world. Its well worth preserving.

    3. Stratman

      Re: Lager is near frozen gnats urine. It is NOT beer

      The ghastly fizz masquerading as lager sold in pubs and clubs is made deliberately tasteless in order to not frighten the children who drink it.

      Real lager is truly delightful, bettered only by real beer.

    4. Mips

      Re: Lager is near frozen gnats urine. It is NOT beer

      Altbier is not lager. Oh no!

  5. skeptical i

    True, brewmeisters have filtration equipment installed,

    but why should the onus be on them? Why are the freaking frackers given carte blanche to come in to an area, pull millions of gallons of precious drinking water, dump their chemical cocktails into it, do dawg- knows- what with it, then dump it back into the ground where it wreaks havoc with the water table? Honestly, if the frackers want to play ball in our yard, they need to leave things in as-was or better condition and this means pulling all their junk out of the water before putting it back underground. Furthermore, the chemical cocktail recipes are apparently considered "trade secrets" so we the people don't know what kind of filtration we need to install (either as individuals on wells or operators of municipal water systems), it just boggles the mind that this is allowed to happen. Having another source of domestically produced fuel certainly has a lot of advantages (I'm not against fracking, per se) but the lack of even basic safeguards for how it's done is staggeringly short-sighted.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: True, brewmeisters have filtration equipment installed,

      Hydrochloric acid is a common fracing component. And as we all know HCL is perfectly safe for human to ingest, we already have that in our stomachs. And we all do love fish and chips smothered in vinegar to top up our own natural supply. What would be more natural than getting it through our water supply as well ? (to help dissolve our teeth)

      1. squigbobble

        Re: True, brewmeisters have filtration equipment installed,

        Vinegar is ACETIC acid. Try topping up your natural supply of HCl without burning your oesophagus*. For more fun, you can simulate an asthma attack by holding the open end of the vinegar bottle in your mouth and inhaling deeply.

        *Random factoid: the profuse dribbling you get just before you puke is meant to protect your oesophagus and gob against that by layering on extra mucus.

    2. John Smith 19 Gold badge

      Re: True, brewmeisters have filtration equipment installed,

      "but why should the onus be on them? Why are the freaking frackers given carte blanche to come in to an area,"

      Because in Europe they are not.

      Not everywhere is America.

  6. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

    Gut Helmut!

    produced over 15.6 million hectoliters (3.3 billion pints) of Bier

    I think we need a Boltzmann Liver, suddenly appearing mysteriously in empty space (because quantum fluctuations make it so it MUST appear from time to time in any point of an universe that is old and large enough) just to process all that!

  7. Heathroi

    losing the weiss beer is no loss,

  8. Bryan Hall

    She needs to visit Colorado

    ...and visit with the Gov. He recently drank "fracking" fluid to prove it is safe. In the US, not a single well has polluted ground water, and the methods used now are far safer (thicker and more layers of casing) than those used for the previous decades. I'd be far more concerned about leaking fuel tanks at the local gas station polluting ground water, than these gas and oil wells.

    This is just FUD - aimed at the beer drinking public.

    1. Rich_Herds_Cats

      Re: She needs to visit Colorado

      No, no contamination at all. Tap water catches fire all the frickin' time!

    2. Grey Bird

      Re: She needs to visit Colorado

      Oh, yeah! Let's all go an drink some diesel! After fracking companies insisted that they no longer used diesel, a known carcinogen, fracking fluid sampled was found to contain diesel. When I see the CEOs of fracking companies drinking fracking fluids every day, I'll believe it's safe.

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
        Paris Hilton

        Re: She needs to visit Colorado

        So how about the rumor that there was Worcester Sauce in fracking fluid samples?

        Seriously though, why you want to put diesel into liquids meant to fracture hydrocarbon-bearing materials?

    3. John Gamble

      Re: She needs to visit Colorado

      Is that supposed to be a convincing argument?

      How much did he drink? Does he plan to drink a full glass every day for years, to simulate the effects on the people actually affected by it? Did he have the contents of the fracking liquid analyzed so his doctor could advise him on the relative safety of even a single drink?

      Nah. He just drank it like an idiot.

  9. Tank boy

    Maybe the water down in Bavaria is still good, where I lived we were warned not to drink out of the tap because of the mercury levels, so I don't know what all this purity clap-trap is all about.

  10. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    Germans, Beer, Purity

    This could end very badly.

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Re: Germans, Beer, Purity

      "Fracking liquids, Mandrake! Fracking liquids in childrens' beer pitchers!"

  11. g e

    Phew, glad I drink the Czech stuff

    Budvar, Staropramen, Gambrinus, Koxzel, Urquell FTW!

    (Oh and the odd Hoegaarden if I'm having a more Belgian moment)

    This round's on me! :oP

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Phew, glad I drink the Czech stuff

      "(Oh and the odd Hoegaarden if I'm having a more Belgian moment)"

      But is it made from real Hoes?

  12. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

    Another option...

    ...would be to decrease dependence on gas by increasing their nuclear cap....oh...wait!

  13. BornToWin

    Fracking needs to be fully controlled

    The oil industry does whatever it feels like unless monitored 24/7. Laws mean nothing to most oil companies so governments may need to limit exactly where oil companies can and can not use fracking. At the insane prices being charged for crude oil products, i.e. blackmail, there is no need to allow the oil Cabal to ruin the natural water supply.

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Re: Fracking needs to be fully controlled

      > Laws mean nothing to most oil companies

      What the hell does that even mean?

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: Fracking needs to be fully controlled

        He's saying large multinationals (like oil companies) have some leeway to get above the law. You want to scare a government? Threaten to move your wells out of that country. Bye bye big-time tax revenues.

        1. M Gale

          Re: Fracking needs to be fully controlled

          Threaten to move your wells out of that country.

          Government says "fine. Fuck off, don't come back." Sets up its own wells.

          Governments might be notorious for not running efficient businesses, but I reckon even they could turn a profit on Black Gold.

          1. Charles 9 Silver badge

            Re: Fracking needs to be fully controlled

            Not without the specialized equipment and trained experts that went WITH THE OIL COMPANIES they won't.

            1. Daniel B.

              Re: Fracking needs to be fully controlled @Charles 9

              "Not without the specialized equipment and trained experts that went WITH THE OIL COMPANIES they won't."

              Easy, the government just nationalizes it. See Mexico's PEMEX, Iran's State Oil thingy, more recently Venezuela did something like that.

              Given enough resources, governments can and will take over all operations, which is why oil companies shouldn't piss off the gov't.

            2. M Gale

              Re: Fracking needs to be fully controlled

              Not without the specialized equipment and trained experts that went WITH THE OIL COMPANIES they won't.

              The trained experts that will work for whoever pays them, you mean? Look at the economic climate. I reckon there's a few of these experts looking for jobs right now. Drilling and refining equipment can be bought.

              Do you think that the country's energy supply is not a national security issue?

            3. BoldMan

              Re: Fracking needs to be fully controlled

              "Not without the specialized equipment and trained experts that went WITH THE OIL COMPANIES they won't."

              Who are usually subcontractors employed by the oil companies. Most Oil companies no longer "own" the expertise they used to have because lawyers and accountants reckon its cheaper to just stuff the ranks of oil companies with MBA trained middle management and leave the REAL work to subcontractors - one reason why BP fucked up in the Gulf of Mexico!

              1. Tom 13

                Re: Who are usually subcontractors employed by the oil companies.

                Salary-wise it is always cheaper to keep them with the company. If they are internal cost is salary + benefits. If they are subs, cost is salary + benefits + profit mark-up for the sub.

                What subcontracting may buy you is liability protection. If the sub fails to uphold Chapter 7, Section 43, Paragraph 5, subsection iii of some regulation, they're on the hook for it not you.

        2. Eddy Ito

          Re: Fracking needs to be fully controlled

          "He's saying large multinationals (like oil companies) have some leeway to get above the law."

          No, they might have friends in high places in some countries where political contributions substitute for bribes but in others they are just as likely to find themselves being told that the industry is to be nationalized and they are free to leave their investment behind as they leave. The companies with leeway are the many oil companies who are the government. Consider that globally, national oil companies control nearly 90% of all reserves and some contract with the international oil companies like Exxon-Mobil and BP to handle certain aspects of production since contracting winds up being cheaper than building extra infrastructure or shifts much of the risk of a project (or blame should something go wrong) on to a private entity.

          Of course it also seems there has been an increase in 'tweens that are offshoots of national companies, joint ventures or quasi-public moves where national companies sell shares of stock. As examples; Saudi Aramco, Petronas & CNOOC are all national oil companies. Gazprom, Statoil & PetroChina are 'tweens inasmuch as they are public companies with either majority government ownership or under government control.

      2. Christian Berger

        @destroy all monsters

        Well essentially now it means that if you are an oil company you are "to big to fail". The same happened, for example, with the German phone company. They used their call records in order to spy on journalists so they could catch a whistleblower.

  14. gilos

    we've got so many beers :)

    we can pick sth from another country, not from germany:) I like beer from uk. few days ago I read not only germany brewers produce beer, also from belgium, czech republic and poland. also there are breweries where is served great beer. my friends from poland really appreciate these beers. maybe I try these stuff :)

  15. Mr Grumpy!

    Don't Panic! Lager is NOT BEER! Drink Ale!

    Is that really a problem? The best Ales (And no, lager doesn't qualify) are made with pretty crap water... Lets be honest, that's why it was invented in the first place. Because it comes form the times that the only SAFE drink was one that had been boiled.

    Frack Away I Say!

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Don't Panic! Lager is NOT BEER! Drink Ale!

      Hello? You boil the wort when you brew lager as well. That's right; lager is still BREWED. The cold part only comes in fermentation, when it's chilled down to let the lager yeast go to work.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    IT Angle

    Fracking is useful, and should be encouraged....

    But then, so is beer. Hmmm, quite the conundrum.....

  17. Bryan B

    Purity schmurity

    The German brewers just *love* to witter on about their Purity Law. Apparently no-one else in the world brews good beer because no-one else has a Purity Law. Now, when was the last time I heard an argument like that? Oh yes, some religious nutter telling me I can't possibly live a good life if I don't have a Holy Book to tell me what is and isn't good.

    Never mind that it was forced on the rest of the country by the Bavarians as a condition of unification and didn't cover the whole of Germany until 1906, never mind that it doesn't stop you using GM barley or hops sprayed with pesticide, never mind that it wiped out entire swathes of North German brewing tradition at a stroke, never mind that pretty much all British ales do indeed meet the Reinheitsgebot...

    The Reinheitsgebot is a prop, a sop. It's what mass-market German brewers use to convince themselves that they are the best in the world and so is their beer, when they aren't and it isn't. Sure, there are some very VERY fine beers produced in Germany, but there's also a lot of meh and a fair bit of dross.

    PS. I live in Germany.

    PPS. Be pure! Be vigilant! Behave!

    1. Snipp
      Thumb Up

      Re: Purity schmurity

      You mad, bro?

    2. PerlyKing Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Purity schmurity

      Nice Torquemada reference :-)

  18. Wim Ton

    Some remarks:

    That Groningen is sinking, is because the gas bearing rock is rather porous (no fracking needed).

    Oilfields in the US are generally less deep than in Germany, so closer to the groudwater (Don't know about their gas fields).

    (Very) Deep groudwater is often salty (fossil sea water) and undrinkable anyway.

    1. Tom 13

      Re: Oilfields in the US

      Well, here's a post from an industry insider, specifically about the Marcellus Shale formation which is the one that has everybody's attention at the moment:

      Note that he's drawing from a US Geological Survey expert for the illustrations, and references the expert's paper in the article.

      Bottom line: Not a problem.

      BTW: this guy called the Deepwater Horizon problem weeks before the feds did. Granted, when he called it he thought it couldn't be the explanation because given all the regs on shallow exploration he has to follow, he didn't think there was any way a moderately competent engineer on a deepwater rig would be so stupid as to take the risk of making an illegal decision.

  19. Wrong ended schtick

    Streuth! This could change the CSG debate in Oz!

    Streuth! This could change the Coal Seam Gas debate in Australia. If anyone knew where our water came from! (.. pass me another can would you, Stan...)

  20. Grant Mitchell

    Purity law is bad anyway

    God only knows that Germany needs to loose it's outdated "purity" laws anyway. The rest of the world is enjoying a craft beer revolution, but Germany is stuck (I would say in the dark ages, but let's be honest, big business in Germany keeps changing the purity law to suit anyway **). In my younger years I'd never have thought I'd consider American beer better than German, but these days it is (to qualify, American craft beer, not that bud shit). Anyway, the best beer at the moment is produced by the Scots (Brewdog), with the Danish (Mikkeller) coming a very close second (IMHO). Let me know if anything is going to affect them!

    There are many additives Germans consider make a beer impure, which makes it sound bad, fact is you can make a "pure" beer with spoiled/rotten ingredients, and they'd still call it "pure". Addition of things like salt and coriander for example don't make a beer bad (if you are buying into the purity myth, consider that they do actually make exceptions, the Leipzig Gose for example, a local beer of Leipzig is considered "pure" despite the aforementioned ingredients - and I'd recommend those to anyone wanting to try a more challenging and different German beer, though on my recent trip to Leipzig it proved quite hard to find gose being sold these days).

    Ditch the purity laws, make sure quality of ingredients is king, and try some different beers Germany!

    ** Guinness does not meet today's purity laws, but does meet the original laws.

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