Scotland recently declared an indefinite ban on fracking. The moratorium applies to all planning consents for unconventional oil and gas extraction north of the border and includes fracking for shale gas. The announcement by the Scottish National Party came just two days after MPs in the House of Commons overwhelmingly rejected an amendment calling for a suspension on fracking by 308 votes to 52.
Energy Minister, Fergus Ewing, has called for a national debate which will include a public consultation on the extraction of shale gas and an environmental impact assessment. The moratorium is expected to last until the end of the public consultation period which is likely to begin within the next two months.
Public opposition to fracking in Scotland is strong after the issue gained lots of attention during the referendum campaign. The number of organised opposition groups grew significantly within the last six months with many groups forming around the Grangemouth plant where Ineos (who hold Scotland’s only fracking license) are based.
Scotland is not the only country to intervene to stop the unconventional gas industry; similar bans have been implemented in France, Ireland, the Netherlands and New York State.
But what is fracking? Fracking is the process by which a high-pressure water mixture is directed into drilled rock to release the gas inside.
While there are not any significant technological barriers to the development of fracking in Scotland, there are environmental and public health concerns. Fracking uses huge amounts of water and it is thought that potential carcinogens could escape and contaminate groundwater around the fracking site.
Although fracking remains controversial, it could provide great benefits in terms of UK energy security, as shale gas is currently imported from the USA to the Grangemouth plant.