Scotland bans fracking

Scotland won’t exploit its unconventional oil and gas reserves following a decision by the Scottish government to ban fracking.

fracking
Fracking operation in Lancashire

A moratorium on fracking has been in place since January 2015 and yesterday’s announcement of an outright ban follows a four-month public consultation that received over 60,000 responses.

According to the Scottish government, approximately 99 per cent of the consultation responses were opposed to fracking and fewer than one per cent were in favour.

Those opposed to fracking emphasised the potential for significant, long-lasting negative impacts on communities, health, environment, and climate; expressed scepticism about the ability of regulation to mitigate negative impacts; and were unconvinced about the value of any economic benefit or the contribution of unconventional oil and gas to Scotland’s energy mix.

Paul Wheelhouse, minister for Business, Innovation and Energy said: “Having taken account of the interests of the environment, our economy, public health and the overwhelming majority of public opinion, the decision I am announcing today means fracking cannot and will not take place in Scotland.

“The views expressed through our consultation demonstrated that communities across Scotland, particularly in densely populated areas where developments could potentially take place, are not convinced there is a strong national economic argument when balanced against the risk and disruption they anticipate in areas, such as transport, pollution and crucially, their health and wellbeing.

“Scotland’s chemicals industry has conveyed strong views on the potential impact of shale on the sector. I want to be clear that regardless of our position on unconventional oil and gas, our support for Scotland’s industrial base and manufacturing is unwavering.”

Reacting to yesterday’s announcement, Prof Stuart Haszeldine, School of GeoSciences, University of Edinburgh, said: “The consultation replies from citizens shows they are very clearly prepared to forgo the doubtful possibility of short-term financial gain for the longer term benefits of moving to a cleaner economy and air quality. This is continuing the decline of fossil fuels, and moving to a different sort of wealth.”

Reserves

In 2014 the British Geological Survey’s report of the resources in the Midland Valley, Scotland, suggested there is a modest amount of gas and oil in place. The central estimate of shale gas in place is 80 trillion cubic feet, whilst the central estimate for shale oil in place is six billion barrels of oil.

By comparison, a central estimate for Bowland shale in northern England comes to 1,300 trillion cubic feet of gas in place, and a central estimate of 4.4 billion barrels of oil in place in the Weald basin situated in southern England.

Reserves that could be extracted in the Midland Valley were thought to be considerably lower than the estimate. A statement issued by the former UK government Department for Energy & Climate Change in June, 2014 said: “Estimates are particularly uncertain [in the Midland Valley] because the area has fewer historic wells and less seismic data than previous study areas. The complex geology of the area and historic mine workings means that exploratory drilling and testing is even more important to determine how much can be recovered.”

Engineers have a vital role to play in explaining the benefits of fracking