A digital mishap led to the publication of the government’s finalised fracking – also known as hydraulic fracturing – policy decision on a website today instead of tomorrow’s scheduled statement to MSPs in the Scottish Parliament.
The website release stated: “On October 3, 2019, the Scottish Government confirmed its final policy position of no support for unconventional oil and gas (UOG).”
The government placed a moratorium on councils issuing fracking licences back in 2015, effectively stopping firms – including Ineos in Grangemouth – from carrying out fracking works.
Speaking to MSPs two years ago, energy minister Paul Wheelhouse stated there was, in effect, a ban on firms carrying out unconventional oil and gas activities – including fracking – in Scotland.
In 2017, in response to Mr Wheelhouse’s statement the government would support an outright ban on fracking, Ineos Shale operations director Tom Pickering said it was “a sad day” for those who believe in evidence-led decision making.
He added: “The Scottish Government has turned its back on a potential manufacturing and jobs renaissance and lessened Scottish academia’s place in the world by ignoring its findings.
“We lead the world in exploration safety, but I fear we will start to see large numbers of Scottish workers leaving the country to find work as the North Sea oil and gas industry continues to decline.
“This decision, which beggars belief, means gas becomes a cost for the Scottish economy instead of an ongoing source of income. It speaks volumes about Scottish leadership on the world stage and sends a clear and negative message to any future investors in Scotland.
“Expert reports have clearly stated this technology can be applied safely and responsibly – but it will b eEngland that reaps the benefits.”
Earlier this year the government had been due to announce its final position, however, further consultations were called for.
Back in July Mr Wheelhouse stated the Petroleum Exploration and Development Licence (PEDL) 162 – for 400 square kilometres of land to the south of Falkirk – held by Ineo Upstream Ltd was due to expire on June 30, but following “consideration of a request” submitted by the licensees he decided, for the second year, to extend the initial term of the licence for a further 12 months.
He added: “It would have been a dereliction of our responsibility as a competent licensing authority not to consider the request for an extension, taking into account all the relevant factors.
“The Scottish Government’s preferred policy position is not to support unconventional oil and gas extraction in Scotland, and that preferred position remains unchanged.”
PEDL 162 was originally granted by the Westminster government to Reach Coal Seam Gas back in 2008 and Ineos bought over the majority of the licence in 2014.