The final findings of a major report into fracking have concluded it is safe to start exploratory drilling as soon as possible.
According to the Task Force on Shale Gas, the process of hydraulic fracturing – pumping fluids into rock formations deep underground to cause fractures and release shale gas – can be carried out safely, provided the strictest environmental standards are in place.
However, Friends of the Earth Scotland is calling on Scottish Ministers to turn the current moratorium, put in place in January, into a ban so communities are protected from fracking and other forms of shale gas extraction.
The Task Force on Shale Gas’s final report, which was published this week, calls for exploratory drilling to go ahead quickly in order to establish clearly how much gas is available and what sort of industry might be possible.
Lord Chris Smith, Task Force chairman, said: “The risk from shale gas to the local environment or to public health is no greater than that associated with comparable industries – provided, as with all industrial works, that operators follow best practice.
“We recommend a number of exploratory wells should be allowed to go ahead, under the very strict environmental safeguards we have outlined in our previous reports, in order to establish a much clearer picture of where and how much recoverable gas there is in the UK.”
Following a Freedom of Information request, the Department of Energy and Climate Change revealed nine different companies have made bids for 19 fracking licence blocks, each covering 100 square kilometres.
This is in addition to the nine sizeable licence blocks Ineos bought up around the Falkirk area and its headquarters in Grangemouth earlier in the year.
Back in July Ineos stated its intention to drill four or five exploratory wells.
At the time, Ineos Upstream operations director Tom Pickering said: “We don’t yet know if the shale gas under the Midland Valley of Scotland can be produced economically. In order to determine this, we need to do seismic surveys – mapping the underground layers via sound waves.
“We then drill a few wells and take core samples of the rock for laboratory analysis of the rock properties, including gas content.”
Friends of the Earth Scotland this week gave its response to the FOI revelations and a recent online report forecasting house prices could fall by up to ten per cent because of fracking.
Head of campaigning Mary Church said: “What we are looking at is an area of around 1900 kilometres squared in some of the most beautiful and densely populated parts of the country being targeted for dirty fossil fuel extraction.
“Shale gas fracking and coalbed methane drilling are simply not compatible with healthy thriving communities. The only reasonable decision for the Scottish Government to take is to turn the current moratorium into a ban so communities are protected from this unwanted unnecessary industry.”
Dr Richard Dixon, FOE Scotland director, said: “New Scottish research confirms it – your house price is going down if you live near a fracking operation. The last thing anyone wants is to have a site next to their home where fracking may happen at some unspecified time in the future.
“This threat to local people and local economies is another good reason for the Scottish Government to decide that fracking has no place in Scotland.”