Ineos Slams Scottish Fracking Ban

  • (c) Philip Scalia/Alamy Stock Photo(c) Philip Scalia/Alamy Stock Photo

Ineos has slammed Scotland’s decision to ban fracking, saying it will negatively affect the country’s jobs, energy security and growth. Tom Pickering, operations director at Ineos Shale said the decision “beggars belief” and accused the Scottish government of “turning its back on a potential manufacturing and jobs renaissance”.

Scottish Energy Minister, Paul Wheelhouse, told members of the Scottish Parliament that the controversial shale extraction technology “cannot and will not take place in Scotland.” He said an existing moratorium on fracking, which has been in place since 2015, would continue “indefinitely,” after a government consultation showed that 99% of the 60,000 respondents supported a ban.

Wheelhouse also cited a study by consultancy firm KPMG, which concluded that only 0.1% per year on average would be added to Scottish gross domestic product if fracking went ahead.

The ban was warmly welcomed by environmentalists. “This is a huge win for the anti-fracking movement, particularly for those on the frontline of this dirty industry here in Scotland, who have been working for a ban these last six years,” said Mary Church, head of campaigns at Friends of the Earth Scotland.

Sam Gardner, acting director at WWF Scotland, said it was “excellent news,” adding: “The climate science is clear. The vast majority of fossil fuel reserves need to be left in the ground. It’s fantastic Scottish Ministers agree that we need to start placing them off limits.”

However, Ineos said a thriving Scottish shale industry would bring an estimated £1 billion to local communities and contribute to the country gaining energy independence, at a time when production and income from the North Sea continues to decline.

Ineos holds the majority stake in the only Scottish license. The company, which has invested £50 million in fracking licenses in Scotland, warned it was considering its options, which could include a legal challenge.

“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 that this technology can be applied safely and responsibly – but it will be England that reaps the benefits,” said Pickering.

According to the petrochemical giant, the shale industry is expected to bring in £33 billion of investment into England alone over the next two decades. It was nearly a year ago that the UK government gave the go-ahead to horizontal fracking in Lancashire.

The ban will be confirmed by a vote in the Scottish Parliament later this year, but this is generally regarded as a formality. The Scottish government also imposed a ban in 2015 on underground coal gasification (UCG), a separate technique used to extract gas from coal seams underground.

Environmental campaigners apart, some scientists also disagree with Ineos’ enthusiastic assessment of the prospects for fracking In the view of John Underhill, chief scientist at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, Scotland’s complex geology means that fracking is not a viable option.

According to Underhill, folds and faults in rock formations deep underground, caused by movements of the earth’s tectonic plates millions of years ago, mean that places identified as harboring substantial shale oil and gas reserves may be unsuitable for commercial drilling.

“The inherent complexity of the sedimentary basins has not been fully appreciated or articulated and, as a result, the opportunity has been overhyped,” he said.

During a consultation process with more than 60,000 responses, a wide majority in Scotland called for a ban on fracking. Recent reports revealed that Ineos has received over £16 million in payouts from Scottish job promotion authorities to support its use of imported shale gas as a feedstock at its Grangemouth production complex. The chemical producer said the funds were needed to keep the site viable.

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