Regulations and regulators for shale gas drilling in Scotland

Shale gas imageApart from the Scot-Govt’s newly-published national planning policy, there are a number of other regulators involved in the regulation of activities associated with unconventional gas:

  1. the licencing of onshore oil and gas activities is a reserved matter managed through the competitive bidding process for licences known as Petroleum Exploration and Development Licences (PEDL) and issued by the UK Government’s Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC);
  2. Drilling operations which propose hydraulic fracturing techniques ’fracking’ require an added layer of permissions in the form of a licence under the Water Environment (Controlled Activities) (Scotland) Regulations 2011 (CAR license). CAR licences are issued and conditioned by the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) who carry out a risk assessment as part of its specific obligations to evaluate risks to the water environment when assessing such applications;
  3. Operators must also provide details of all of the chemical additives proposed to be used in drilling and fracturing fluids to SEPA, who then use this information in their examination of any application for injection, to ensure the substances involved are of a type and at a concentration that will not cause pollution of the water environment;
  4. An additional layer of regulation is applied to some surface activities connected to onshore gas extraction such as refining of gas, gasification and other heat treatments, combustion or disposal of liquid or solid wastes, which are controlled by SEPA through their Pollution, Prevention and Control Licence (PPC);
  5. The Health & Safety Executive monitors unconventional gas operations from a well integrity and site safety perspective – safe working practices as required under the Health and Safety at Work Etc Act 1974, and regulations made under the Act – The Borehole Site and Operations Regulations 1995 (BSOR) and The Offshore Installations and Wells (Design and Construction, etc) Regulations 1996 (DCR);
  6. Any activity which intersects, disturbs or enters coal seams requires prior written authorisation from the Coal Authority;

Any operator wishing to develop onshore gas in Scotland also needs to seek planning permission from the relevant Planning Authority, and of course the usual public notification and consultation processes apply.

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