The western state of North Rhine-Westphalia, once the heart of Germany's coal industry, may soon gain more investment in its natural resources sector as Exxon announces plans for natural gas exploration.
US energy corporation Exxon is planning a multimillion-euro investment in the exploration of Germany's natural gas reserves, according to an interview in the German business daily Handelsblatt published on Monday.
The exploration would take place in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany's most populous state and once home to the German coal industry. The state is thought to have Europe's second largest natural gas reserves with 2.1 trillion cubic meters (74.2 trillion cubic feet).
"We are expecting an amount well into the hundreds of millions during the exploration phase," Exxon Mobil Central Europe chairman Gernot Kalkoffen told Handelsblatt. "If we're lucky, we could see billions [of euros] flow."
Kalkoffen said the final amount invested would depend on how concentrated the gas is and how efficiently it could be extracted.
The report said a total of nine companies want to explore gas in the state and had secured drilling options in various regions.
Despite the potential economic benefits, gas drilling has several opponents in North Rhine-Westphalia. Citizens' initiatives have sprung up in the area around Münster, fearing environmental damage and expropriations.
The regional government decided in mid-January to examine the issue, especially in light of a law passed almost 30 years ago aimed at dismantling the natural resource-based economy, which some view as antiquated.
Author: Andrew Bowen (AFP, dpa)
Editor: Martin Kuebler