Germany's most populous state, North-Rhine Westphalia, has issued exploration permits to ExxonMobil and nine other companies, including at least one Canadian firm, to drill for unconventional gas across vast parts of the country.
According to reports, drilling in certain areas in 2008 by the Aachen technical university was not successful.
The German Green Party said they were "blindsided" by the news, which was reported today in the German online paper Der Westen. (in German).
Citing an answer from state Economy Minister Harry Voigtsberger to a Green party state parliamentary inquiry into the matter, the paper said that the drilling would span across land equalling almost half of the state’s size.
The Green Party "parliamentary energy expert" said that the claims were staked quietly and secretly.
The articles cited mention "coal bed methane" or gas "stored in rock strata", without specifically mentioning that the companies will be exploring for "shale gas" or using hydrofracturing techniques, which are suspected as being responsible for contamination of water supplies in places where these techniques have been put in practice.
Recent improvements in exploration technologies have made it easier to discover shale gas deposits.
Germany is seeking to reduce its dependence on Russia as a source of natural gas.
No word on the cost of the exploration licenses.