Scottish moratorium on fracking “unjustified” – says government expert

Edinburgh Scottish Parliament Holyrood
Holyrood (Scottish Parliament). Source: WikiCommons, Ad Meskens.

Scottish Government’s justifications for an indefinite moratorium on fracking were “all made up” and “completely feigned” said Professor Paul Younger, Rankine chair of engineering at Glasgow University, who advised the government prior to the decision.

The head of an expert scientific panel tasked by the Scottish MPs with preparing evidence on benefits and potential risks of fracking, Professor Younger told the Scottish Daily Record that he felt “completely violated as a professional” following the announcement of the ban and accused the SNP of treating the issue as “political football” ahead of the general election.

In January, Scottish Government imposed a moratorium on fracking in order to allow for a full public consultation on the controversial drilling technique, and to commission a full public health impact assessment.

Following the announcement, Gary Haywood, the chairman of Ineos Upstream, said that the future of the Grangemouth refinery “may be very difficult” if the facility has to rely solely on foreign imports. Ineos, the owners of the Grangemouth plant, bet hard on Scottish shale, announcing in November that it is planning to invest £640 million in British shale gas exploration.

The newly-imposed moratorium means that all the Petroleum Exploration and Development Licences, or PEDLs, issued by the Westminster Government, are put on hold.

According to the Scottish Daily Record the following licences will be affected:

  • PEDL 133 was granted for the area near Stirling, Falkirk and Grangemouth to Dart Energy, now nown as IGas. The licence covers 329 sq km of the Midland Valley, which includes Ineos’s Grangemouth complex. Ineos Upstream, Ineos’s oil and gas arm, have bought the 51 per cent share from BG Group. The other 49 per cent share of the shale section licence is owned by IGas.
  • PEDL 159 for coalbed methane extraction at 19 sites in and around Canonbie in Dumfries and Galloway is also held by IGas. The area covers 295 sq km of the Solway Basin. Eight wells were drilled in the area by a previous PEDL holder during 2007 and 2008. Three of these wells were pilot production wells, which demonstrated good production rates of natural gas from the coal seams. The remaining five wells were exploration wells. These delineated seam thickness, gas contents, gas saturations and permeability trends in the area.
  • PEDL 162 licence covers an area of 400 sq km next to PEDL 133 and is owned in 80 per cent by Ineos Upstream Limited.

According to The British Geological Survey, Scotland’s Midland Valley has approximately 80 trillion cubic feet of shale gas, 10 per cent of which might be technically recoverable. If this turns out to be true, it would satisfy Scotland’s energy needs for the next 46 years.

Despite that Scots have yet to be convinced of the benefits of fracking, with recent poll showing them the most sceptical of all Brits when it came to shale gas exploration.

Several months ago, a YouGov survey found that, across the UK, opposition to shale exploration is at 41 per cent, and support at 35 per cent, but Scots who voted Yes in the referendum, and those who plan to back the SNP at the general election, are more likely to oppose fracking. Another survey, carried out by The Times, showed 56 per cent of Scots against, with 23 per cent for fracking.

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