‘Should Shale Be Integral to the UK’s Energy Needs?’ was the key theme of the conference, organised by the Scottish Energy Association and Scottish Energy News Ltd.
With the exception of MSP Patrick Harvie from the Scottish Green Party – whose party policy is to ignore hydro-carbon resources and leave them in the ground – most speakers supported this theme.
Chris Lewis, Energy Partner at Ernst & Young, highlighted a recent EY econometrics report which forecasts that a UK shale gas sector would directly employ and/or support 64,500 people in an industry and wider supply chain worth £33 billion.
“But,” he said, “we need positive political will for this to happen.”
Mark Lappin, now with Complete Exploration and Development, after a career in offshore energy with Centrica (which owns Scottish- and British- Gas brands) said: “There’s a lot of shale gas development and planning going on in the UK at the moment in Yorkshire, Lancashire and – now – also with I-Gas in Nottingham.
“In the USA, shale has grown from nothing in 10 years to now enable the US to start oil exports again. And it’s transforming the US economy, bringing cheaper, cleaner energy to industry.
“And’s it being done in heavily-populated areas – for instance, in, through, and around the Dallas-Fort Worth twin-city conurbation, which is home to a population greater than the whole of Scotland.
“It is unthinkable to me <for the Scottish Government> to say, in effect, ‘we don’t want to know how much Scottish shale gas there is. It’s like saying, we want, cheap, reliable and secure energy <from INEOS’ shale gas super-tankers> so long as it comes from somewhere else!
“This ‘fracking’ ban has other unintended consequences – consequences for jobs, or lack of them, consequences on the balance of payments <paying for shale gas imports> and consequences on <consumer> prices, which in turn have consequences for fuel-poverty.”
Fraser Pritchard, of Columbus Energy Partners – which advises national and regional governments in the Iberian Peninsula and south-east Europe (where Hungary has a long-established onshore oil and gas sector) commented:
“Scotland has a big shale reserve. Either you want to do something with it. Or not. Either way, you’ll end up paying one way or another.”
Hugh Carmichael, who now heads up the INEOS shale-gas super tanker ferry service from Pennsylvania, USA to Grangemouth, near Falkirk, said: “People should also remember that it’s not just our petro-chemical plant that benefits, we also supply shale to Shell at Mossmorran in Fife because they also can’t get enough from the North Sea.
Mike Cooper, Arenite Petroleum, warned of an ‘oil and gas skills exodus’ from Scotland fuelled by the fracking ‘ban’.
He added; “Fracking is a common place event in the North Sea. The industry is moving to England. Scotland will not be an innovator, nor a market leader, in this new UK industry.”
In his closing speech, Shadow Scottish Energy Minister, Alexander Burnett, MSP, told delegates that the SNP’s ‘political decision to impose a ban on fracking’ has no basis in scientific facts.
He said: “Nicola Sturgeon says she likes to listen to experts. Well she should listen to her government’s own experts – as well as those here today at the UK Shale Energy conference – who’ve already told her that shale gas exploration can be safely carried out.
“She seems happy to accept the benefits of fracking in the N. Sea oil and gas sector, so it make no sense to ignore the potential economic benefits of onshore gas and fracking is one of the few economic and energy opportunities we have.
“It’s also easy to see the opportunity to deploying N. Sea oil and gas skills offshore to onshore shale exploration. Do we want to use Scottish experts and create our own new jobs, or does she want to continue to pay to export <shale> jobs overseas?
“The SNP should stop flip-flopping and get a move on for shale.”
The SNP-led minority Scottish Government was asked to provide a speaker for the UK Shale Energy Conference. None attended.
Speaker presentations are available on the Scottish Energy Association website from w/b 3 October 2016: www.wearesea.com