Unconventional gas is likely to top the political agenda over the summer as the Scottish independence referendum comes to a head.
The Scottish Government is due to publish its final draft Scottish Planning Policy in June this year – it is presently being considered along with the National Planning Framework by the parliamentary Energy committee of MSPs in Holyrood.
Also this summer, the UK Department for Energy (DECC) will launch the tendering process for its 14th round of onshore licensing, in which a number of locations in the Central Belt could be put out to tender for oil and gas exploration.
And DECC has also commissioned the British Geological Survey to undertake a study of the shale gas potential in the Central Belt – the results of this study are also expected to be announced in the summer.
Meanwhile, SNP MSP Joan McAlpine – a member of the Scottish Parliament’s Energy Committee – has also raised her concerns over unconventional gas drilling. She told Scottish Energy News:
“In my South of Scotland region, the developer, Dart Energy has received planning permission to drill 19 wells around the village of Canonbie and their own paperwork indicates that they will take out up to 16,000 gallons of water each day from each well.
“The Gas Pressurisation Unit, which will undertake the final gas/water separation processes, will have a capacity to handle up to 154,000 gallons of water per day, and a million cubic metres of gas per day.
“Drilling will take place just yards from villagers homes. Coal-bed methane produces huge amounts of toxic water and neither Dart not their partners, Buccleuch Estates have explained what will happen to this water. There are also concerns about the flaring of methane and damage to soil, rivers and burns.
“The company say they do not intend to “frack” for the gas, a method which has caused considerable alarm and is linked to earthquakes. However in Australia, we know that 40% of coal-bed methane sites end up being fracked in order to extract the maximum amount of gas.
“The proposed development at Canonbie is a partnership between Buccleuch Estates and Dart Energy. During a recent Buccleuch briefing, it emerged that the planning permission, which was granted under delegated powers in 2008 by officials at Dumfries and Galloway Council, was for a particular method of drilling proposed by Greenpark Energy, later bought by Dart.
“Dart and Buccleuch argue that they have inherited the Greenpark planning consents. However they intend to switch to a completely different method of drilling. In my view, this means the consents are no longer valid. Dart should be made to reapply.
“Ultimately with Scotland’s enormous strength in renewables, particularly marine energy and offshore wind, I believe that we have the potential to create thousands of skilled jobs in manufacturing and engineering – without damaging the environment”.