Scotland business

Survey to estimate shale gas deposits between Edinburgh and Glasgow

The British Geological Survey (BGS) is to begin work next year on estimating the size of shale gas deposits between Edinburgh and Glasgow.

The move was confirmed by BGS's director of science and technology during an appearance before the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee.

Prof Mike Stephenson said BGS planned to start work after a study in south east England is completed in March.

The committee is examining the impact on energy policy of shale gas and oil.

BGS has already completed a study on a large part of the north of England, estimating the area contained 1,300 trillion cubic feet of deposits.

It is now working on an estimate for the amount of shale oil contained in the Weald in the south east of England.

Prof Stephenson told the committee: "There are parts of Britain where there is no point in doing it because there is simply no shale.

"There are other areas where it is worth a look.

"The Weald - the south east of England - is being done at the moment, and we expect the results would be around March next year.

"The intention is to have a look at the Central Lowlands of Scotland after that, the area essentially between Edinburgh and Glasgow, between the two bounding faults of the mountains in the north and the uplands in the south. That would be the third area."

'Fracking' process

Shale gas is extracted through "fracking" - the controversial process of freeing trapped gas by pumping in a mixture of water, sand and chemicals.

The process has helped boost the domestic energy industry in the US in recent years, where oil production has risen and gas prices have plummeted.

Last December, the head of a leading engineering company said Scotland was well placed to be at the forefront of a new European shale oil and gas industry.

Weir Group chief executive Keith Cochrane said the country could take advantage of its existing expertise in the energy sector.

'Climate justice'

However on Wednesday, environmental group WWF Scotland urged Scottish ministers "to commit to leaving some fossil fuels in the ground" in the interests of tackling climate change

WWF Scotland director Lang Banks said: "As a result of the latest projections by climate scientists, even the International Energy Agency now says that the vast majority of known fossil fuel reserves need to be left in the ground and not exploited.

"So, in the interests of tackling climate change and delivering climate justice, irrespective of what the BGS survey reveals, Scottish ministers should be preparing to commit to leaving fossil fuels in the ground.

"Scotland has an opportunity to continue to define itself as a renewables-first, climate-friendly nation - both within the UK and the wider world."

Licensing regime

A Scottish government spokeswoman said the UK government's Department of Energy and Climate Change issued oil exploration and development licences in competitive offerings but operators were still required to obtain planning permission and other licences before any exploration or development work could be carried out.

She added: "Each proposal will be considered through the normal planning process and the appropriate regulatory regimes including Sepa's (Scottish Environment Protection Agency) updated guidance on the regulation of shale gas and coal-bed methane published December 2012.

"Proposals for coal-bed methane or shale gas production in Scotland will be studied on their merits, informed by reliable and substantive information on availability of resources and the manner and practicalities of their exploitation.

"There are no planning permissions granted which would allow hydraulic fracturing (fracking) in Scotland at this time."

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