Unconventional Oil and Gas in Scotland

On 28 January 2015, the Scottish Government put in place a moratorium on unconventional oil and gas development in Scotland, which prevents hydraulic fracturing and coal bed methane extraction taking place.


October 2019

Scottish Government statement on fracking rejects legal ban

On 3 October Scottish Environment minister Paul Wheelhouse announced in Parliament  that after years of deliberation and consultation the government had concluded that  "the development of onshore unconventional oil and gas is incompatible with our policies on climate change, energy transition and the decarbonisation of our economy"  and would not be permitted.

The 'ban' would be implemented by instructing councils to refuse all planning applications for fracking rather than by the outright legislative prohibition that environmental groups and some opposition parties have demanded. 

The minister said  “I am mindful of the fact that there have been calls from stakeholders, and from colleagues in this chamber, for a legislative ban on unconventional oil and gas in Scotland.  We do not consider that new legislation is necessary at this time to control unconventional oil and gas development in Scotland; a strong policy position enacted through devolved planning powers and licensing is – we believe – robust, evidence-led and sufficient. However that option remains open if there is evidence over time that further action is required.”

Environmental groups and some opposition parties have argued that a block enforced via planning powers could be reversed easily by a future government.

Mary Church from Friends of the Earth Scotland said it was "very welcome" that fracking would not be allowed, but added

"Ministers must live up their rhetoric and fulfil the promises of two years ago by committing to a full legal ban on fracking that will put this issue to bed once and for all.

"The effective ban announced two years ago has been exposed in court as having no legal force and was described by the Scottish government's own legal team as merely 'the language of a press release'.

"An expert legal opinion from earlier this year shows that not only is it well within the power of the Scottish government to ban fracking, but that legislating would be a far more effective way to stop the industry and defeat any further legal challenges from companies like Ineos who want to frack the central belt."

Guardian report by Severin Carrell  3 October 2019

BBC News report  3 October 2019

Fracking protest for legal ban in 2017


July 2019

Scottish Government renews Ineos Falkirk licence

Mark McLaughlinn    The Times   2 July 2019

"Petrochemicals giant Ineos has been granted an extension to its onshore gas drilling licence despite SNP claims that it will not allow fracking in Scotland.  Ineos .   .   . has a licence to drill across 400 sq km of land near Falkirk that was to expire on Sunday. Paul Wheelhouse, the energy minister, extended the licence by 12 months as ministers are still deliberating over their “preferred policy” to ban fracking.

"The Scottish government has been accused of hypocrisy by telling environmentalists that it opposes fracking, while offering businesses hope that they may be able to drill in Scotland in future. It announced an “effective ban” on fracking in 2017 but it was forced into an embarrassing climbdown in June last year when Ineos launched a legal challenge.

"Government lawyers told the Court of Session that talk of a ban was merely PR “gloss” and that it had not yet adopted a position."

The Times article in full

Read more in The Herald

Fracking protesters at SNP conference  Perth 2008

August 2019

Lancashire Fracking halted after largest tremor yet

Fracking activity was halted at Cuadrilla's Lancashire site after a tremor over ten times the Government-prescribed limit occurred on 22 August.

The Guardia22 August   Jillian Ambrose

"Cuadrilla was forced to halt fracking at its shale gas site near Blackpool in Lancashire on Wednesday night after triggering the largest tremor recorded at the location.

The tremor closed down operations at the Preston New Road site shortly after it was detected at 8.46pm.

The shutdown comes less than a week after Cuadrilla started fracking its second well on the site after abandoning the first well following multiple shutdowns because of tremors.

The fracking firm said the “microseismic event” measured 1.55ML on the Richter scale, which it likened to “a large bag of shopping dropping to the floor”.

The tremor is higher than the previous record quake, which measured 1.5ML at Little Plumpton in December 2018, and easily breaches the government’s 0.5ML limit on seismic activity.

A company spokesman said: “Most local people will not have felt it due to its small size.”

Jamie Peters, a campaigner at Friends of the Earth, said even small vibrations at ground level can be a sign of far more damaging impacts deep underground.

“It’s obvious that fracking can’t be done without triggering earthquakes. This latest quake is a sign that Cuadrilla just can’t stick within the regulations they agreed,” he said."

Full story in the Guardian

BBC News  22 August


July 2019

Cuadrilla to restart fracking at site in Lancashire

The Guardian        Thursday 11 Jul 2019 
Jillian Ambrose      Energy correspondent

"The first company to drill for shale gas in the UK plans to restart fracking at its Preston New Road site in Lancashire in a last-ditch effort to convince policymakers to relax safety rules.

"Cuadrilla will drill a second well near Blackpool after it was forced to abandon the first, which caused multiple earth tremors.  It plans to remobilise its drilling and fracking equipment within the coming months to test gas flows from the site before its permission expires in November.

"Francis Egan, the company’s chief executive, plans to use the data to convince the government and regulators to loosen the safety rules that have slowed the progress of the UK shale industry.

"He said the work could help to make a case for the UK’s controversial shale ambitions by proving that the Bowland Shale region offers a “hugely exciting opportunity for the UK”..   .   .   .   .   .   .

"Jamie Peters, a campaigner for Friends of the Earth, said: “Fundamentally, at a time when the government have declared a climate emergency, the last thing we should be doing is starting an industry that extracts gas — a fossil fuel, along with coal and oil, that should be left where it is.

“Fracking just isn’t viable and investment in renewables and energy efficiency is clearly the answer.”

Read the full article


October 2018 - Lancashire

Jailed Fracking protesters freed on appeal

BBC News  17 October  2018

Three men jailed for a fracking site protest have been freed after judges ruled their sentences were "excessive".

Simon Blevins, Richard Roberts and Rich Loizou became the first UK anti-fracking protesters to be sent to prison, after climbing lorries at Cuadrilla's Lancashire site.  Court of Appeal judges ruled they should not have been jailed and imposed conditional discharges.  The judgement was met by applause and singing from supporters in the court.  A complaint against the original sentencing judge, the details of which are unknown, is being investigated.

Speaking outside HMP Preston, shortly after his release, Loizou said the court's decision "affirmed that when people peacefully break the law out of a moral obligation to prevent the expansion of fossil fuel industries, they should not be sent to prison".

Comment       Michael Segalov       The Guardian        17 October 2018

"The fracking protesters did us a public service. Jailing them was wrong."

"There were cheers inside court four of the Royal Courts of Justice this afternoon, when after a markedly short recess three appeal court judges returned to give their verdict. Sentenced to lengthy jail sentences last month, three-anti-fracking protesters - Simon Blevins, Richard Roberts, Rich Loizou - had what they had known all along confirmed by the lord chief justice, Sir Ian Burnett: the punishments handed down by the judge in their trial had been “manifestly excessive”. Instead of serving 15 or 16 months in HMP Preston, their release from prison is now imminent. But be in no doubt: they should never have been behind bars in the first place."

Read the full article


January 2018 - INEOS to appeal against fracking ban

Grangemouth refinery owner INEOS has announced it will seek a judicial review of the Scottish Government’s ban on onshore unconventional oil and gas development in Scotland at the Court of Session in Edinburgh.  INEOS claims the move is “unlawful” and a “misuse of ministerial power”.

INEOS' decision to appeal is deplored by Labour, the Green Party and Friends of the Earth Scotland, but supported by the Scottish Conservatives.

Quoted in an article in the Inverness Courier of 23 January, TBI Director Anne Thomas said 

"We are part of a growing movement in Scotland which wants to see a transition to low carbon power and an increase in energy efficiency.

"Starting a completely new fossil fuel industry which would add to greenhouse gases and air pollution and also carries risks of contamination of water and creates toxic waste makes no sense at all."

Read  The Guardian report by Scott MacNab   9 January 2018

November 2017 - Injunction against fracking protest extended

The UK high court has extended a  wide-ranging injunction sought by Ineos which prohibits campaigners from interfering unlawfully with their operations

Read The Guardian report by Rob Evans  23 November 2017

October 2017 - Fracking ban announced

The Scottish Government has announced that it will impose a permanent ban on the development of unconventional oil and gas extraction in Scotland.

Announcing the decision, energy minister Paul Wheelhouse said ministers had a duty to act in the "best interests of the country as a whole", and revealed that  99 per cent of respondents to a 60,000-strong consultation were against fracking.

The ban is expected to be approved by the Scottish Parliament, as the Green Party, Labour and the Liberal Democrats all support a ban.

Read The Scotsman report by Scott MacNab,  3 October 2017

May 2017  -  Fracking consultation closed

On 31 January 2017 the Scottish Government launched a comprehensive public consultation, Talking “Fracking”, on unconventional oil and gas, which ran until 31 May.  The consultation invited views on the evidence on the potential impacts of unconventional oil and gas in Scotland and on the future of the industry.

TBI submission to Fracking consultation

A response on behalf of TBI was submitted by Julian Paren, and the argument of the response is summed up below in his response to the question

Overall, and in light of the available evidence, what do you think would be the main benefits, if any, of an unconventional oil and gas industry in Scotland?

We see no benefits. We see only a polluted environment and Scotland failing to meet its carbon targets. We cannot conceive that with clean-up costs the industry could be cost effective compared with other forms of energy production.

Read the full response

Once the consultation responses have been independently analysed, the Scottish Government will consider the full range of evidence, and make a recommendation on the future of unconventional oil and gas in Scotland.

The Scottish Government will then ask the Scottish Parliament to vote on its recommendation, and come to a final decision on whether or not unconventional oil and gas has a role in Scotland’s energy mix.

The Government had previously commissioned a report by an Independent Expert Scientific Panel, and a series of research projects to explore certain issues in more detail.

The Independent Expert Scientific Panel report was published in July 2014. The research reports were published on 08 November 2016.

NHS health impact summary

Consultation background and overview

'Talking Fracking'  - information and discussion links -

Consultation paper

'Guardian' report and discussion  February 2017

'Submit your views'  shortcut


March 2017 -  Talk by Professor Iain Stewart

On Monday 13 March 2017  Iain Stewart, Professor of Geoscience Communication at Plymouth University, gave a talk  entitled 'To Frack or not to Frack' at Inverness High School.  Here are some impressions from the talk.

The nature of Professor Stewart's talk was such that it did not make it very easy to come away with a clear opinion for or against fracking in general or in Scotland in particular.  I suppose in a way this was to be expected, as he would presumably want to be seen as a provider of information rather than a campaigner for one side or the other in the debate.  To illustrate the divergence of views he opened his talk with two 'case sketches', one of a woman whose tap water ran blue and who claimed to have suffered from a variety of ailments since fracking drilling started near her home, and the other of a man under whose property horizontal drilling extended and who was being paid thousands of dollars a year just for living where he did.  He didn't need to explain which of the two was in favour and which against.

He showed a lot of graphs and tables showing how the mix of coal, oil and gas, and latterly renewables, had changed over time, I think in both UK and world energy use, and offered a lot of other statistics.  Some of the particular points he made were:

Any contamination of aquifers and drinking water (I suppose one of the main arguments of the 'anti' camp), was likely to be a result of leakage from faulty well linings very close to the surface, where the aquifers mostly are, rather than of the actual fracturing of the rock to release the gas, which takes place at least a kilometre down, and therefore only indirectly attributable to the fracking process.

There was a danger that the fracturing process, while not having any great effect in itself, could trigger small earthquakes in certain geological formations, as  happened near Blackpool in 2011.

Surface works involved in both exploration and production might well be more disruptive, if not actually hazardous, than the fracking process itself.  He mentioned in particular the need to truck in enormous quantities of water at some sites, which of course raises the question whether the pumping of the huge quantities required constitutes a justifiable use of an increasingly scarce resource.

He was emphatic in his view that we (I think referring to Scotland rather than to the UK as a whole, which of course is significant in the light of the current Scottish moratorium and the decision to be taken when it ends), do not need the energy which fracking could produce.  Interestingly, he repeated this assertion, in response to a question, in his talk to the Highland Geological Society a few weeks later, which wasn't about fracking at all.

Returning to his initial 'case sketches', he was asked after the talk whether it had been established that fracking was responsible for the woman's illness and discoloured water.  He said he did not know, and I was rather surprised that he had not taken the trouble to find an answer to that one, or to refer to any investigations that had been carried out.  In a later response to an email, he said that he had not obtained any further information about the specific case, but provided a link to an article about investigations into water quality in the area concerned.


Consultation on proposed Prohibition of Fracking Bill

A proposal for a Bill to ban unconventional oil and gas extraction, including by means of hydraulic fracturing, has been lodged in the Scottish Parliament by Claudia Beamish MSP.

The consultation runs from 4 November 2016 to 17 February 2017.

Read the consultation document outlining the proposal, and view a short video of Claudia Beamish setting out the main reason behind the proposal (limiting CO2 emissions), and inviting participation in the consultation.


First imported fracked gas arrives at Grangemouth

The Guardian   27 September  2016

The first ever shipment of shale gas from the US is set to arrive in Britain less than 24 hours after the Labour party vowed to ban fracking, the method by which the controversial energy source is extracted.

Ineos, the petrochemical company founded and chaired by a billionaire, Jim Ratcliffe, will take delivery of a tanker full of ethane at its Grangemouth plant in Scotland on Tuesday, marking the first fruit of a $2bn investment.
Labour's pledge to ban fracking in the UK is 'madness', says GMB
Read more

Fracking is subject to a moratorium imposed by the devolved government in Holyrood. But the Grangemouth plant will receive 27,500 cubic metres of ethane extracted from beneath western Pennsylvania in the US, where shale gas production has boomed.

The imports are due to replace dwindling supplies from the UK’s North Sea reserves.

The gas has travelled more than 3,500 miles via a “virtual pipeline” of eight tankers to reach Grangemouth, where Ineos has built an import terminal as part of an overhaul costing £450m. The ethane will be fed into “crackers” that convert the gas into ethylene, used in the production of a range of plastic products.

“Shale gas can help stop the decline of British manufacturing and today is a first step in that direction,” said Ratcliffe.

Read more

The Telegraph   26 September 2016

Britain's first import of fracked gas from America is due to arrive in Scotland tomorrow morning, as billionaire Jim Ratcliffe taps the spoils of the US shale revolution.

Ratcliffe's company Ineos plans to sail its 'Insight' ship carrying a cargo of 27,500 cubic metres of US ethane to its Grangemouth petrochemicals plant, where it will be used to replace declining supplies from the North Sea.

Ineos almost closed the loss-making plant near Falkirk in 2013 following a dispute with unions but eventually agreed a rescue plan to make it profitable again, with the import of cheap US ethane at its centrepiece.

The company says it has invested £450m in an overhaul of Grangemouth, including the construction of a massive tank with capacity to hold more than 60,000 cubic metres of the gas.
.  .  .  .  .
Ineos said the import marked "the start of a shale gas renaissance that secures competitive raw material supplies for Grangemouth supporting thousands of manufacturing jobs in Scotland and the wider UK".

Read more

'Banning fracked gas a recipe for mass unemployment' 
GMB press release 27 September 2016

Calling for imported fracked gas to be stopped is campaigning for mass unemployment in central Scotland says GMB Scotland.

GMB Scotland has commented on the arrival today of the first shipment of US shale gas in Scotland. Refinery owner Ineos said that the gas would replace dwindling North Sea supplies and secure the future of the plant’s workforce.

Shadow Energy Secretary Barry Gardiner announced at the Labour conference in Liverpool that the next Labour Government would ban fracking in the UK.

Gary Smith, GMB Scotland Secretary, said:

“Hundreds of millions have been invested in Grangemouth. Tens of thousands of jobs depend on the site - calling for imported fracked gas to be stopped is campaigning for mass unemployment in central Scotland.

Instead of indulging in King Canute stuff, the Greens should be entering in a real world debate about where we get our gas from”


North Yorkshire fracking operation approved

The Independent      23  May 2016

The North Yorkshire County Council planning committee voted seven to four in favour of an application by UK firm Third Energy to frack for shale gas near the village of Kirby Misperton.

Councillors have approved an application to carry out fracking in England for the first time in five years.

The North Yorkshire County Council planning committee voted seven to four in favour of an application by UK firm Third Energy to frack for shale gas near the village of Kirby Misperton, North Yorkshire.

The application is the first to be approved in the UK since 2011, when tests on the Fylde coast, Lancashire, were found to have been a probable cause of minor earthquakes in the area.

The application was passed despite the presence of hundreds of protestors, who gathered outside County Hall in Northallerton throughout the hearing which began on Friday.

Vicky Perkin, a council planning officer, told the committee there had been 4,375 letters of objection and 36 of support for the application.


Third Energy point out that the fracking operation will use an existing two-mile deep well - called KM8 - drilled in 2013 close to the North York Moors National Park, over which a 120ft-high drilling rig will be established.  It could start by the end of the year.

Rasik Valand, chief executive of Third Energy, said the approval meant the firm now had "a huge responsibility".

"We will have to deliver on our commitment, made to the committee and to the people of Ryedale, to undertake this operation safely and without impacting on the local environment," he said.

In response to the decision, Councillor Andrew Cooper, Green Party Energy Spokesperson, said: “North Yorkshire County Council has let down the people of Kirby Misperton by passing this application for fracking today.

"The Green Party will continue to stand by local communities under threat from fracking operations and we will strongly oppose any attempts by central government to impose fracking against the will of local people.”


Daisy Sands, Greenpeace's head of energy campaign, said: "Given the pro-fracking bias from central government, there was an air of inevitability about this bitterly disappointing decision.

"It is striking that the overwhelming number of speakers giving evidence at the two-day hearing were against fracking and Ryedale Parish Council voted against fracking at its back door, but North Yorkshire Council has overlooked this and the many, many concerns that were raised locally."

BBC News  23 May 2016

Date set for fracking recommendation in Lancashire

2BR News   5 April 2016

It's been announced that the inspector who chaired an inquiry into fracking in Lancashire will put her recommendations to the government on 4th July.

Wendy McKay listened to arguments from both sides during a five-week public inquiry at Bloomfield Road Stadium, which came to an end on 16th March.

Today she's revealed that, based on those arguments, she will put forward recommendations on whether fracking goes ahead at two sites in early July.

Cuadrilla has applied to explore and drill for shale gas at Roseacre Wood, near Elswick, and Little Plumpton, near Blackpool.

Once Wendy has had her say - it will then be up to the Government's Secretary of State for the Department for Communities and Local Government to make the final decision.  It's unclear how long Greg Clark will take to reach his final choice.

February 2016   Fracking Rig in Parliament Square

A team of Greenpeace volunteers has built a 10 metre high drill rig – and put it on the doorstep of Parliament in London.

Evening Standard  9 February 2016   Michael Clarke writes:

Hannah Martin, Greenpeace campaigner said “We have installed a life-like fracking rig and drill at Parliament Square to show them what people in Lancashire and beyond will have to endure if so-called Communities Minister Greg Clark forces fracking on a reluctant nation.”

“We are here to fight for the future of the English countryside. Ministers are pushing aside local democracy to bulldoze through their unpopular fracking plans."

Campaigners from Greenpeace have focused their calls to stop fracking towards Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Greg Clark.

In late November Mr Clark said he would intervene and evaluate an appeal made by shale gas explorer Cuadrilla Resources to use fracking to drill in Lancashire against a local county council’s decision to reject the application.

Mr Clark will determine the outcome of Cuadrilla’s appeal following a public inquiry.

Greenpeace says it is also using the sound effects of drilling and lorries to try and get their message across to the House of Commons.


14,000 objections were lodged when proposals by Cuadrilla for exploratory drilling at the villages of Roseacre and Little Plumpton were considered by Lancashire County Council in November 2015.  Friends of the Earth  -   'Frack-free Lancashire'.

November 2015  Minister calls in Lancashire Fracking appeal

November 2015Minister calls in Lancashire Fracking appeal .

It has emerged that the decision to allow shale gas drilling - or fracking - in Lancashire will be made directly by the government.

Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Greg Clark informed Lancashire County Council of his intention on 26 November.

The government decided in September to include shale gas drilling in the categories of planning appeal decisions that can be decided directly by the minister.

BBC News  28 November
Judy Hobson, Environment Correspondent, BBC North West Tonight writes:

This was the news some residents in Roseacre and Little Plumpton didn't want to hear. But it won't have come as a big surprise.

Cuadrilla's appeal against Lancashire County Council's decision to reject its plans for fracking will be heard in February.

The appeal will be heard by planning inspector Wendy McKay. But we now know she won't be the one making a decision. Instead, she'll write a report, make a recommendation and hand it to the government. The Secretary of State will have the final say.

Residents against fracking knew this might happen, but they hoped it wouldn't. The government says it wants to decide the future of fracking because it's an issue of "major importance". Anti fracking groups say they fear that means local opinion will count for nothing.

More from BBC News

"Communities furious"  -  Morning Star

Greenpeace launches new petition.



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