The Expert Scientific Panel set up last year by the Scottish Government has concluded its report into unconventional oil and gas in Scotland has concluded that Scotland could benefit from developing the industry.
The Panel was tasked with reviewing the existing scientific evidence on unconventional hydrocarbon development. Its key conclusions include the following:
- The development of the unconventional oil and gas industry has changed the energy outlook of the United States of America. This has been made possible by technological advances in directional drilling and hydraulic fracturing. The impact of the US shale gas ’revolution’ has raised interest in developing unconventional hydrocarbon resources in the rest of the world;
- There could be positive economic impacts from the development of an unconventional oil & gas industry, in terms of jobs created, taxes paid and gross value added. The scale of the impact in Scotland is subject to debate and may only become clear once development is underway. Lack of infrastructure, such as drilling rigs, could have an impact;
- Suitable petrochemical feed-stocks from the North Sea are declining, in particular ethane and other light hydrocarbons. The potential availability of these feed-stocks from unconventional oil and gas resources in Scotland could have a beneficial impact on Scotland’s petro-chemical industry in the long term;
- Although further exploratory drilling will be required, Scotland’s geology suggests that there could be significant reserves of unconventional oil and gas – the greatest potential reserves are likely to be in the Midland Valley of Scotland – which includes the Central Belt.
- When viewed in the context of the factors that have supported coal bed methane and shale gas development in other countries, it seems likely that unconventional gas could be developed in Scotland at scale. This is particularly true, given Scotland’s domestic oil and gas supply-chain industry, and Scotland’s longstanding experience in other extractive industries such as coal mining, shale oil, and conventional oil and gas;
- There are a number of technical challenges associated with unconventional hydrocarbon extraction, though it is the Expert Scientific Panel’s view that none of these are insurmountable. The technology exists to allow the safe extraction of such reserves, subject to robust regulation being in place.
The members of the Expert Scientific Panel on Unconventional Oil and Gas were:
Dr Chris Masters CBE, FRSE. He is currently the Chairman of Energy Assets Plc. He also holds a number of other non-executive directorships, including Speedy Hire Plc and The Crown Agents. He is a member of the Court of Edinburgh University and Independent Co-Chair of the Scottish Science Advisory Council. Full time executive positions have included Chief Executive of Christian Salvesen PLC and Executive Chairman of Aggreko plc. A research chemist by training, he has extensive experience of international business, is a fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh and has received honorary degrees from the Universities of Strathclyde, St Andrews, Edinburgh and Dundee Abertay.
Professor Zoe Shipton, Professor of Geological Engineering, Department of Civil Engineering, Strathclyde University – Professor Shipton is a structural geologist working on fault growth processes, the link between faulting and fluid flow, and the structure of earthquake faults. Professor Shipton has carried out consultancy work for Cluff Geothermal Limited, BHP Billiton, StatoilHydro and Todd Energy, and has held research grants from UK and Irish research councils, Total Oil, Geochemica, Carnegie Trust for the Universities of Scotland, and Scottish Government.
Robert Gatliff, Director Energy and Marine Geoscience, British Geological Survey – Robert joined the BGS in 1976 as a geologist/sedimentologist and worked in the Industrial Minerals Assessment Unit until 1981 when he transferred to Edinburgh and joined the Hydrocarbons Unit which provides the Government with independent geological advice on oil and gas exploration and production.
Professor Stuart Haszeldine OBE, BSc (Edin), PhD (Strath), CGeol, FRSE, University of Edinburgh – Stuart Haszeldine has worked on coal, oil and gas deposits, with a wide interest in fossil fuels, radioactive waste disposal and environmental impact. He is Professor of Carbon Capture and Storage at the University of Edinburgh, and his current research examines geological storage of CO2, in the context of climate change and changing energy use.
Professor Kenneth Sorbie, Cairn Energy Professor of Petroleum Engineering, Heriot-Watt University.
Professor Finlay Stuart, Professor of Isotope Geosciences, Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre (SUERC)
Professor Susan Waldron, Professor of Biogeochemistry, University of Glasgow – Professor Waldron holds a personal chair in biogeochemistry in the School of Geographical & Earth Sciences at Glasgow University. Susan has received funding from the Natural Environment Research Council to apply her knowledge of isotope systematic to characterise the source of gases in the environment around sites of unconventional hydrocarbon extraction (2014-15 with Professor Stuart and Professor Haszeldine).
Professor Paul Younger FGS, C.Geol., FNEIMME, FICE, FIChemE, C.Sci., C.Eng., FREng. Rankine Chair of Engineering, Professor of Energy Engineering – University of Glasgow – Paul Younger has a diverse background, ranging from pure science (geology), water resources and environmental engineering (especially groundwater engineering), mining environmental engineering and energy engineering. Paul has direct first-hand experience of drilling and pumping fresh groundwater worldwide, and has drilled several deep geothermal boreholes, using technology adapted from the petroleum sector.
Professor James Curran MBE BA BSc PhD MInstP FRMetS CMet CPhys CEng – James has worked in environmental science and regulation for 30 years. He has been a consultant to the Scottish Office and was for some years the Head of Science with the Scottish Environment Protection Agency and then Head of Environmental Strategy. Later he took up a post again with SEPA first as Director Science and Strategy and now as Chief Executive.