UK Government offers Central Belt to fracking industry
The UK Government today launched the 14th onshore oil and gas licensing round, in which 20,000 square km across central and southern Scotland has been offered for unconventional fossil fuel exploitation.
Friends of the Earth Head of Campaigns Mary Church commented
“Under UK Government plans some of the most densely populated parts of Scotland could end up with the fracking industry as neighbours. Tens of thousands of people will be understandably worried about what this means for their homes, their health and their local environment.”
“Climate science tells us we must rapidly move away from oil and gas towards a clean, renewable energy future if we are to avoid a catastrophic global temperature rise. In this context it is utterly irresponsible to open up a new frontier of dirty fossil fuels.”
The Department for Energy and Climate Change’s announcement invites companies to tender for exclusive rights to exploit shale gas and other unconventional fossil fuels. The launch of this latest licensing round – the first in 6 years – follows the publication of research from the British Geological Survey that indicated only a modest amount of shale gas and oil in the Scotland’s central belt. The report also noted the challenges of extracting the resource in the complex geological formations in this area.
“While recent planning restrictions, low shale gas estimates and strong community resistance make Scotland’s central belt an unattractive prospect for potential licence holders, some fracking firms may still be hoping they can find a so-called sweet spot and make a quick buck.”
“Shale gas and coalbed methane extraction has left a trail of health problems and environmental damage across the US and Australia where the unconventional fossil fuel industry is more developed. The Scottish Government needs to send a stronger signal to the industry and ban unconventional gas extraction altogether.
“The UK Government’s irresponsible courting of the fracking companies could leaves thousand of Scottish homes at risk from this dangerous industry. Scotland should concentrate on living up to its climate commitments and becoming a world leader in renewables rather than joining the UK’s reckless dash for dirty gas.”
Notes to Editors
1. UK Government announcement: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/new-onshore-licensing-round-opens and further details of the 14th round at https://www.gov.uk/oil-and-gas-licensing-rounds. The map showing the areas up for grabs in Scotland is here: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/fil…
3. The British Geological Survey recently published a study of the shale gas and oil potential of the Midland Valley (Scotland’s central belt) which found there to be around only 5% of the shale gas resource in the Bowland Shale in northern England, and a quarter of the official estimates of recoverable oil in the north sea. However the report does not indicate how much of the gas or oil resource is recoverable, only that the complex geological formations of the central belt and lack of seismic data mean there is significant uncertainty, and make exploitation extremely challenging. Recoverability estimates tend to be in the range of less than 1% – 5%. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/bgs-midland-valley-of-scotlan…
4. Cuadrilla has indicated that it needs to frack 40 wells over 5 years to establish whether there is an economically viable shale gas resource in northern England. Should companies seek to explore for shale gas or oil in Scotland, communities here will face the same prospect of being fracked for years only for operators to confirm there is no economically viable resource. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/energy/oilandgas/1061149…
5. DECC have recently issued a consultation on plans to remove landowners rights to refuse access to companies who wish to drill and frack underneath their property. These plans are likely to apply to Scotland under reserved powers. See https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/underground-drilling-access Friends of the Earth are encouraging people to object: http://act.foe-scotland.org.uk/lobby/frackaccess Nearly 1000 emails have been sent to MSPs so far.
6. Last month the Scottish Government announced the tightening of planning rules on unconventional gas extraction, including the requirement of buffer zone protection for communities and sensitive ecological areas. See http://www.foe-scotland.org.uk/node/1844
7. Thousands of people in Scotland are currently opposing plans for coalbed methane extraction in their communities, an industry that has very similar impacts to shale gas fracking, and can often involve the use of fracking. Dart Energy’s proposal for commercial coalbed methane extraction at Airth remains the most advanced onshore unconventional gas project in the UK. The Department for Planning and Environmental Appeals is currently taking further evidence on the new planning policy before making a decision on that application. Dart Energy recently agreed to a buy out by the UK’s biggest fracking company, IGas. The deal is expected to be finalised in September.
8. Friends of the Earth Scotland is
* Scotland's leading environmental campaigning organisation
* An independent Scottish charity with a network of thousands of supporters and active local groups across Scotland
* Part of the largest grassroots environmental network in the world, uniting over 2 million supporters, 77 national member groups, and some 5,000 local activist groups.