Oil and gas expert says Scottish Government fracking policy is "not logical"

Written by Nicholas Mairs on 16 September 2016 in News

Dr Stuart Paton argues that with two nuclear plants set for decommissioning, shale extraction will be required to fill the baseload gap left

The Scottish Government’s energy policy contains a “number of contradictions”, according to an oil and gas expert.

In a new paper, Dr Stuart Paton argued that with two nuclear plants set for decommissioning, shale extraction will be required to help fill the baseload gap left.

The Scottish Government introduced a moratorium on fracking last year while it gathers evidence on the technique, which involves drilling into the earth to extract natural shale gas from rock.


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Scottish Labour, the Scottish Greens and the Liberal Democrats all pledged to ban it in their election manifestos.

But Paton, the former chief executive of Dana Petroleum said: "At present, the problem of base load capacity is satisfied by nuclear capacity, fossil fuel generation and imports.” 

“Therefore, without new, non-wind reliant, generation capacity, Scotland will not have base load capacity.”

He added: “The Scottish Government has a commitment to zero emissions from electricity generation by 2020, yet an outright rejection of nuclear power and continued support for a coal power station at Longannet.

“The government shows unbridled support for the offshore oil and gas industry, but not onshore unconventionals.”

Paton argues there is “significant potential” for unconventional oil and gas development in Central Scotland in shale oil and gas and coal bed methane.

He said: “INEOS, who own the Grangemouth refinery and petrochemical’s complex, have acquired interests in Central Scotland demonstrating the potential in this area.”

Nicola Sturgeon has previously defended the fracking moratorium as “absolutely the right thing to do”.

Responding to criticism from the Scottish Tories, she said: “The moratorium on fracking has been introduced so that we can carefully study all the different aspects before coming to a decision that is guided by and based on evidence, and also takes into account public opinion – the opinion of members of the public who would have to live in areas affected by such technology.”

The Scottish Parliament voted narrowly in favour of a ban in fracking in June, however SNP MSPs abstained, with the Scottish Government in the midst of a moratorium on all planning consents for unconventional oil and gas extraction, including fracking.

Scottish Conservative energy spokesman Alexander Burnett said the government’s policy on fracking was “ludicrous”:

“As [Dr Paton] rightly points out, the Scottish Government is happy to take energy from the North Sea and coal plants. Yet it rules out categorically the possibility of extracting energy in an unconventional way.

“Not only does that not make sense, but it risks Scotland missing out on the economic benefit fracking could bring. And with two nuclear plants set for decommissioning, fracking is one of very few approaches that could see people’s energy bills drop too.”

The Scottish Greens have voiced consistent opposition to any move towards fracking in Scotland.

In March, the party’s co-convener Patrick Harvie said: "The Scottish Greens take pride in being a democratic party, and both our membership and leadership are united in demanding a full ban on fracking and unconventional gas. We will continue to call for a ban and to hold the SNP to account in the next Parliament."

Scottish Labour have also declared outright opposition. Leader Kezia Dugdale previously said: "The scientific evidence is clear; our climate cannot stand another fossil fuel, that’s why a Scottish Labour Government will ban fracking. No ifs, no buts, no fracking with Scottish Labour.”

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