Patrick Harvie warns INEOS against fracking in central Scotland


  By Lynda Williamson
Scottish Green Party Co-convener Patrick Harvie has cautioned industrial giant INEOS against thinking it will be able to Frack in one of Scotland’s most densely populated areas.
Mr Harvie was responding after it emerged the operators of the Grangemouth refinery and petrochemical plant, had acquired a 51% share of the shale section of the joint Petroleum Exploration and Development Licence covering the Midland Valley of Scotland.

The licence covers 329 square kilometres including the refining and petrochemical complex, and the area around it.

Commenting, the Scottish Green MSP said onshore drilling for conventional gas made little sense given warnings over Climate Change.

He said: “While there is a case for diverting stocks towards petrochemical manufacturing and away from simply burning them as fuel, we should be looking to use existing supplies wisely rather than chasing after more.”

In a thinly veiled warning to INEOS that local people would not tolerate Fracking near their community, Mr Harvie added: “Given the high density population in the Grangemouth area, and the serious concerns already expressed by communities such as Airth near Falkirk where coal bed methane drilling has been proposed, I think Ineos will find they have an uphill struggle ahead of them if they think they can easily frack the Forth Valley.”

The licences for the Scottish Midland Valley – which includes the Firth of Forth and including Grangemouth, Falkirk and much of Stirling – were issued by the UK Government.  The remaining 49% share is owned by the controversial unconventional gas exploration company Dart Energy which is headquartered in Singapore and is currently the subject of a takeover bid by IGas Energy PLC.

While energy policy is reserved to the UK government, which is keen to encourage the exploitation of unconventional gas, the Scottish government has taken a more cautious approach describing the Westminster attitude as “gung-ho”. 

The Scottish Government has strengthened Scottish Planning policy as it relates to onshore unconventional oil and gas and has announced its intention to resist a plan by the UK Government to allow fracking companies the right to run pipelines under private land.  They have also set up a working group to consider more careful regulation of the industry.

According to the Liverpool Echo, any gas extracted at the Scottish site could be piped down to Liverpool to feed INEOS’ giant complex in Runcorn.  The site uses huge amounts of energy – more than the entire city of Liverpool – and even has its own power plant.

There is already a pipeline linking Grangemouth with Runcorn and if the exploration process in Scotland proves to be successful then Runcorn could in future be the location for infrastructure needed to handle the shale gas.

Friends of the Earth Scotland Head of Campaigns Mary Church said:

“Spin-masters INEOS have found a crafty way to fuel the shale gas hype by buying into the Broxburn part of Dart Energy’s Forth Valley license. This is a low risk way for the company to keep alive the pretence that there is an economically viable shale gas industry waiting to blossom in Scotland.

She added: “INEOS’s move also shows how empty Dart Energy’s promises to keep their license areas frack free are, and will only add to the strong local opposition to plans for commercial coal bed methane extraction in the area.”