‘Fracking’s fine for Falkirk’ says local MP, while Edinburgh professor says it would be ‘bizarre’ to walk away from shale


Shale oil exploration map  DECC Scotland. Darker shaded areas are open to licence applications
Shale oil exploration map DECC Scotland. Darker shaded areas are open to licence applications

It would be ‘bizarre if Scotland was not to exploit the potential wealth of the large-scale shale gas deposits across the Central Belt’.

This was a key answer provided to topical questions on Scottish energy issues at an expert panel debate at the first Heriot Watt University Energy Academy Showcase in Edinburgh recently.

Prof. Gordon Hughes, professor of Economics at Edinburgh university, told an audience of more than 100 peers, students and energy sector representatives from across the Scottish energy spectrum:

 “Assuming there is sufficient quantities of shale, and that these are economically recoverable, it would be bizarre not to exploit this natural resource.

“I can’t think of many other countries around the world which are sitting on substantial wealth in oil and gas and which have chosen to simply walk away from this.

If the authorities in Scotland want to walk away from shale, well, ok, that’s their decision.

“But walking away from shale in Scotland won’t make any difference in terms of other countries exploiting their shale resources and it also won’t have any impact whatsoever on world prices of fossil-fuel-fired energy.”

Further support for Scottish shale exploration has come from Falkirk MP Eric Joyce – whose constituency includes parts of Airth and Letham Moss area of proposed coal-bed methane extraction planning application from Dart Energy.

This application – which was subject to an independent public planning inquiry – was opposed by both Falkirk and Stirling councils. But the Scottish Government stepped in to call-in the application and Scottish ministers will now make the final decision.

The Scottish Government is strongly in favour of offshore gas and oil mining as well as supporting large-scale industrial wind farms on- and offshore. It has not said that it is opposed to shale gas but recently announced a set of five ‘additional criteria’ that prospective shale miners must meet before commencing ground operations.

Eric Joyce, MP
Eric Joyce, MP

 However, Joyce has said that Dart Energy’s plans would be ‘good for the local economy’ and added:“Thousands of workers at Ineos (the nearby Grangemouth petro-chem refinery) and 3,500 jobs in the community that extend from the supply chain are depending on fracking since it’s going to ensure their future.

“Fracking and coal-bed methane extraction are great for Falkirk, something many folk in the former coal-mining communities understand.

“I’m fed up with the shocking self-indulgence of a small number of better-off people living in one part of the constituency who seem to care nothing about that. The Nimby folk should pipe down.”

A spokesman for Dart Energy commented: “The proposed project is environmentally and visibly low impact, but a valuable national asset for Scotland and it is only to be expected that the Minister has called in the Reporters decision. The call-in by Ministers is often part of the planning process and we respect that decision.

“Coal bed methane is a natural gas recovered from unmined deep underground coal seams which, with limited treatment, can be fed into the National Grid for supply to homes or businesses or directly to an industrial user. A successful coal bed methane project in Airth will provide significant economic and social benefits to Scotland.”

The British Govt. Department for Energy (DECC) – which owns all UK sub-surface mineral wealth – is presently inviting applications for petroleum exploration licences across the Central Belt. The latest British Geological Society survey shows that there are substantial shale deposits in and around not only former coal-mining communities, but also across hitherto unidentified reservoirs around Gullane in East Lothian.

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