Drilling for natural gas in Falkirk district using the controversial ‘fracking’ process has moved a step closer.
Grangemouth petro chemical giants Ineos has bought a 51 per cent stake in an exploration licence which has already been used by Dart Energy to find coal bed methane in coalfields below Airth.
But unlike Dart Energy, which has “no plans” to ‘frack’ in the area, Ineos, the world’s fourth biggest chemicals company, sees the 127 square miles around Grangemouth and Firth of Forth as a perfect chance to use hydraulic fracking to reach shale gas.
The company intends to become a “major player” in onshore gas production in the UK and is already investing £350 million to bring ethane produced from shale gas in the United States to fuel its production operations here.
Gary Haywood, boss of its new oil and gas exploration and production arm, said: “We are one of the very few businesses that can use shale gas as both a fuel and petrochemical feedstock. This is a logical step for Ineos and we are very excited about it.”
The Petroleum Exploration and Development Licence (PEDL) 133 was awarded to Composite Energy Limited in the early 1990s and inherited by Dart Energy (Europe) in 2011.
The company is waiting for Scottish Government Reporters to determine its appeal for planning permission to extract commercial quantities of coal bed methane from below Letham Moss.
General manager Douglas Bain said: “We are delighted a significant local employer has joined us. Although Dart Energy has been focussed on development of the coal bed methane resource, we have long recognised the shale potential within the licence.”
Falkirk East MP Michael Connarty has called for a government commission to look into unconventional gas extraction and wants a fund set up to help residents affected.
He said: “I’ve no argument against coal bed methane extraction as an energy source. Ineos is a natural end user of this, so it’s logical they want to get involved. There is shale gas under the ground across the UK but we have to make sure the mistakes that have been made in America which have had an environmental impact are not repeated here. The key to finding and using shale gas is to ensure that extraction by fracking or any other method does not damage the environment. This will need very strict controls.”
Grangemouth MSP Angus MacDonald said: “Ineos is clearly entitled to consider entry into shale gas exploration but it has been made clear by the Scottish Government any exploration in Scotland faces a much stricter regime than that in England.
“I welcome the Scottish Government’s considered and cautious approch to fracking proposals and the objection it raised to Westminster’s ‘gung-ho’ plans to remove the rights of householders in Scotland to object to drilling beneath their homes. The views of communities must be taken into account which is exactly why these decisions should be taken in Scotland.”