The lower house of parliament on May 11 approved a ban on tapping gas from shale rock deposits by hydraulic fracturing, a practice aimed at freeing up new energy sources but frowned on by environmentalists.

The bill prohibits the practice, long used in the United States, whereby water is pumped deep underground at high pressure to break out gas from the rock.

The law must now pass to the Senate for approval.

French oil giant Total is among several companies looking to tap shale gas, seen as a potentially valuable local source of energy, cheaper than exports.

The government has said it is against the use of hydraulic fracturing. Environmental groups say that chemicals used in the process are a pollution threat.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2011