Aberdeen-based offshore oil chiefs back onshore exploration for Scottish shale gas

Colette Cohen
Colette Cohen

The chief executives of the Aberdeen-based Oil and Gas Authority and the Oil and Gas Technology Centre have both declared in favour of allowing onshore exploration for shale gas to determine the commercial viability of the industry in Scotland.

The move by Andy Samuel and Colette Cohen comes as community groups mount another legal battle to prevent Cuadrilla from starting hydraulic fracturing (aka ‘fracking’) operations at its Preston New Road site in Lancashire.

The outcome of the case is likely to be announce today (31 Aug 2017).

Cohen said that people are missing the opportunity to have an ‘intelligent debate’ on fracking in Scotland.

She said: “It does not make sense to talk about whether fracking is right for Scotland until data from onshore drilling operations has been gathered.

“We’re talking about moratoriums, but we don’t yet know what the opportunities are.

“We have the potential here <in Scotland> but we’re only going to start getting real data now that drilling is taking place in England.

“Only once we’ve got that data should we have that debate. We should be allowed to understand the opportunities, then have an intelligent debate. I’m frustrated because we’ve allowed emotion to eliminate an intellectual debate on what’s right for UK energy security.

In January 2015, the SNP-led Scot-Govt imposed a ‘temporary’ moratorium on onshore exploration for oil and gas reserves – despite the findings of two independent expert scientific reviews of the technology concluding that fracking could be safely carried out under the present, or even enhanced, health, safety and environmental protection regulations.

And speaking at a recent oil and gas industry event in Norfolk, Andy Samuel, OGA Chief Executive, said: “I think the UK has taken the learnings from the US and has put in place a substantially more robust regulatory framework, which the Oil and Gas Authority is part of.

“It still relies on operators doing the right thing but there is substantially more monitoring.

“Again, from my learnings from the US, some parts of the plays worked and others didn’t. The geology is unconventional and is quite hard to predict until you actually get into the operational phase.

“But what I did see in the US was the benefit it had for local economies and that the low-cost gas rejuvenated parts of the country that really needed those jobs and those industries.”

31 Aug 2017

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