Strong UK interest in Scottish shale energy as DECC confirms 9 oil-gas firms have applied for exploration licences

Shale gas 'treasure map' of Scotland - the likely prospectful areas  identified by the British Geological Survey. The areas shaded in blue are un-allocated licences while the areas shaded in yellow are exploration licences granted by DECC before the Scottish Government moratorium.
Shale gas ‘treasure map’ of Scotland – the likely prospectful areas identified by the British Geological Survey. The areas shaded in blue are un-allocated licences while the areas shaded in yellow are exploration licences granted by DECC before the Scottish Government moratorium.

The UK Department for Energy (DECC) has revealed that a total of nine UK energy companies applied for onshore shale oil and gas exploration licences in Scotland’s Central Belt.

But DECC last night refused to divulge details of the applicant companies nor the precise petroleum exploration development (PEDL) licences – despite a Freedom of Information disclosure request by an anti-fracking sympathiser to do so.

Meanwhile, DECC is due to announce by 18 Dec 2015 the successful applications for a number of onshore oil and gas / shale energy / fracking licences in England and – possibly – Wales

Stephen Speed, Director of Energy Development (the senior line manager whose jobs it is to approve or reject such licence applications said that such disclosure is exempted on the grounds that it would contravene commercial confidentiality and prejudice their position in any future such applications.

These applications were made in Summer 2014 in DECC’s 14th onshore licensing round – six months before Fergus Ewing, Scottish Energy Minister, announced a de facto moratorium on a new Scottish shale gas industry in January 2015.

As a result, all Scottish local authorities have since been required by Ministerial announcement  to refer any and all new planning applications from energy companies seeking development planning approval for specific permits for ancillary onshore oil and gas (ie shale / fracking) projects.

Since then, the Scottish Government – under strong internal SNP party pressure – has also extended the moratorium to coal-gas, effectively putting £millions of investment and creation of new Scottish jobs on hold.

The applications for the nine Scottish shale gas exploration licences in the Central Belt cover a total area of 1,900 sq. km – ranging from the outer eastern periphery of Grater Glasgow, through Stirlingshire and West Lothian, to Fife and East Lothian.

According to the British Geological Society – which has analysed rock formation for possible shale gas/ oil bearing strata deep underground – there is a particularly prospectful area in East Lothian, known as the ‘Gulf of Gullane’ sweet spot.

The Scottish Government knew by February 2015 that these UK energy companies had applied to DECC for shale gas exploration licences in the Central Belt. Matthew Hancock, then Junior Business Minister at the DTI in the Tory-Lib coalition government, told Fergus Ewing in a letter sent on 25 Feb 2015:

“But we should recognise that this action <the Scottish Govt fracking moratorium> may affect companies who have applied for <onshore petroleum exploration> licences.

“Before I decide on any such action <ie to comply with Ewing’s request not to award any new oil and gas licences in Scotland> it will be necessary for me to consult with all the applicants. As some of them are unlikely to be happy with the proposal <ie the Scottish shale moratorium> I should be grateful for your support in working with these companies to provide clarity for them on the way forward.”

Meanwhile, the Scottish Government continues to seek scientific evidence for or against shale energy in a two year consultation period which will report six months after the 2016 Scottish general elections to the Holyrood parliament – highlighting again the ‘Economy v. Environment’ political issues presently on global display at the UN climate-change summit in Paris.

sen logo apr 2014 mediumScottish Energy News has extensively reported shale oil and gas issues in Scotland and the UK and earlier this year we held The UK Shale Energy Conference 2015 in conjunction with the Scottish Energy Association ( )

In addition to the following link, readers can search our online archives for full reports on independent, probative and robust data on shale oil and gas safety;  For example:

England steps on the (shale) gas with new £30m test drill programme, while Scotland stagnates

SNP’s Westminster Energy spokesman sets out the Five Fracking Tests for UK shale gas sector

When Scotland’s shale energy industry led the world

Shale and Safety: get the fracking facts right from the Royal Society of Edinburgh

Grangemouth owner hires global oil experts and invests for Scottish shale gas boom

 Scots civil engineers call for evidence-led debate on Scottish nuclear and shale energy in face of ‘emotional’ scaremongering

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