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.
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
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."
Fracking protesters at SNP conference Perth 2008
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 Guardian 22 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."
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.”
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."
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.
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.
'Talking Fracking' - information and discussion links - http://www.talkingfracking.scot/
Consultation paper http://www.gov.scot/Resource/0051/00513575.pdf
'Guardian' report and discussion February 2017
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. https://www.newscientist.com/article/dn21120-how-fracking-caused-earthquakes-in-the-uk/
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.
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