Oil and gas firms held back from exploring for shale gas resources by government-imposed moratoria are seeking compensation for the projects they have had to abandon.

US-based energy firm Schuepbach is reported to be claiming €1 billion from the French government for blocking shale gas exploration permits, according to Reuters, citing an industry newsletter.

Meanwhile in Canada, another US-based firm, Lone Pine Resources, wants $250 million in compensation following a decision by the Quebec government to impose a ban on fracking, the technique used to extract shale gas from underground. Several organisations in the US as well as Canada have urged Lone Pine to abandon its suit, fearing a series of judgements that would interfere with government’s legitimate right and duty to protect the environment.

Schuepbach Energy held two exploration licences in France that were cancelled when the country imposed a fracking moratorium in 2011. President Francois Hollande has repeatedly ruled out a reversal of the law during his term of office.

Lone Pine Resources claims in a filing to an international arbitration system that it spent million to get a permit to drill in Quebec. It is seeking damages because of "Quebec’s arbitrary, capricious and illegal revocation" of the firm’s "valuable right to mine for oil and gas under the St Lawrence River".

The claim is based on the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which allows companies to sue governments when laws hurt their expected profits. l