Green MSP Patrick Harvie says a study by the British Geological Survey shows that potentially modest reserves of shale oil and gas prove fracking shouldn’t figure in Scotland’s energy future.
The BGS estimates there are 80 trillion cubic feet of shale gas in central Scotland – just six per cent of the reserves thought to be present in northern England – and it warns that drilling and testing of wells would be required to understand if commercial production rates could be achieved.
A huge swathe of Scotland, from Argyll to Aberdeenshire and from Ayrshire to East Lothian, has been earmarked as ripe for fracking by the UK Department for Energy and Climate Change.
Harvie, the Green MSP for Glasgow and Co-convener of the Scottish Greens, said:
“This study puts paid to all the hype we’ve been fed about a shale bonanza. Not only would fracking divert attention from our undoubted renewables potential but any economically viable extraction would be modest and short-term. Greens want a long-term energy plan for Scotland, and we have abundant clean sources to do this.
“As communities across Scotland realise the risk to their local environments from the prospect of fracking, and as climate science tells us we must start to leave unburnt fossil fuels in the ground, it’s clear that any such developments will face strong opposition.
“It all serves as a reminder that Westminster controls energy policy in Scotland. The chance to pursue clean, long-lasting power rather than polluting, finite fuels is a compelling reason to vote Yes in September.”
Commenting on the survey Friends of the Earth Scotland Head of Campaigns, Mary Church, said
“Low headline gas estimates and even smaller potential returns combined with recent planning restrictions mean that Scotland is an increasingly unattractive prospect for the shale industry. This is good news for the large number of communities across Scotland faced with the threat of fracking under UK Government plans to license the central belt. This study shows that shale gas and oil will do nothing for energy security, won’t bring down bills and certainly isn’t worth the risk”
“Even if the survey had shown that we were sitting on hundreds of years worth of shale gas, climate science tells us we would have to leave it where it was to avoid catastrophic global warming.
“However the UK Government’s misguided incentivizing for companies to explore for shale gas and oil means we could still see operators trying their luck in Scotland in the next licensing round. This could mean hundreds of wells fracked only to demonstrate that there is no economically viable resource.
“The Scottish Government needs to send a stronger signal to the industry and ban unconventional gas extraction altogether, focusing instead on making the most of our abundant renewable resources and supporting communities to generate their own sources of clean energy.”
The government recently tightened up planning policy in relation to onshore unconventional gas extraction, meaning that operators now have to undertake a complex risk assessment and propose buffer zones between sites and sensitive receptors, including communities.
The UK Government is expected to announce the 14th onshore oil and gas licensing round imminently, in which 20,000 square km in Scotland could be offered for exploration and production licences.