Minister hints at easing of moratorium
Ewing extends fracking ban to other gas extraction plans
UCG – a process which extracts gas from coal without the use of fracking – will give the government more time to consider the potential impact of the technology, according to energy minister Fergus Ewing.
Mr Ewing, however, seemed to keep the door open to allowing UCG by saying the government should “never close our minds” to new energy technologies.
Consultation will continue through to spring 2017 but any planned projects will be hit by the ban.
The temporary prohibition will be a blow to Cluff Natural Resources which has been working with Haliburton on UCG projects in the Forth of Firth. It was hoped that because the original ban applied to onshore projects anything retreived from under the Forth would be excluded.
Cluff recently produced independent research which suggested thousands of jobs and £12.8 billion could be added to the UK economy by developing a UCG industry.
The study by independent economic consultancy Biggar Economics said it would provide 1,000 jobs in the Firth of Forth area, where the Longannet coal-fired power station is due to close, and 5,000 in total across Scotland.
Graeme Blackett of Biggar Economics, author of the report, said: “Scotland is a hydrocarbon and energy-rich country, and this could be an important new industry on a UK- wide basis, supporting many thousands of sustainable jobs.”
UCG is seen a means of fuelling a new generation of gas-fired power stations and that the gas could be used as a feedstockfor the chemical industry, including the Grangemouth complex.
But the Scottish government wants more research and is consulting widely on the issue. In today’s statement Mr Ewing said: “Ministers have held meetings with representatives of environmental non-governmental organisations, community groups, industry bodies and local government.
“Those meetings have helped us to prepare for the research and public consultation processes. As a result, we have planned a robust and thorough research process and a wide-ranging and participative consultation process.
“The public will understandably wish to study the outcome of the research process and thus the public consultation will not begin until the findings of the research process have been published.
“Scotland’s moratorium into onshore unconventional oil and gas extraction was welcomed by both environmental campaigners and industry representatives. It will remain in place as the research and public consultation is undertaken.
“We should never close our minds to the potential opportunities for Scotland from new energy technologies – but we must also ensure that community, environmental and health concerns are all fully taken account of.
“The research we propose in this timetable will give all interested stakeholders important information to allow a more informed debate during the public consultation.”