Scottish Government to make fracking decision in 2017

frackingsignThe Scottish Government has released the independent reports on the impacts of fracking and unconventional Gas extraction.  This is in advance of a consultation that leads to the Scottish government making a decision on fracking in 2017.

The link is below to gain the background to the reports is here:

healthreport2016It included a link to the public health impact assessment, and this, many hope, will be the start of an evidence based approach to finally taking the decision to end the moratorium on fracking – by banning it all together.

The papers point to the conclusion that it is neither essential, environmentally safe or more controversially, safe in terms of its health and immediate environmental safety impacts.

The summaries for the technical reports are reproduced below:

Summary of research findings:

The following summaries have been prepared by the research contractors. The summary of the Health Impact Assessment was confirmed with Health Protection Scotland.

Economic impacts and scenario development: Undertaken by KPMG.

The aim of this project was to better understand the potential aggregate impact of unconventional oil and gas development on the Scottish economy under a range of scenarios and consider key sectors and groups that are likely to be affected by each scenario. Three potential production scenarios were developed by undertaking a study of the existing evidence base, including estimates of potential UOG resources, and through discussions with stakeholders and by making number of assumptions including that each scenario was developed on the basis that exploration is successful. In the mid-range scenario it is estimated that the development of 20 well pads of 15 wells each could produce a cumulative 947 billion cubic feet of gas and 17.8 million barrels of associated liquids over the lifecycle to 2062. This could lead to direct expenditure of £2.2 billion in Scotland over the period, which could give supply chain benefits and other induced economic benefits of an additional £1.2 billion over the period and be responsible for the creation of up to 1,400 jobs at its peak in the Scottish economy. While not quantified in the study, the report highlighted a number of other potential economic considerations, including the use of gas as feedstock in the petrochemical industry, the impact on local house prices, road use, agriculture, visual amenity, environmental costs and health costs.

Decommissioning, site restoration and aftercare – obligations and treatment of financial liabilities: Undertaken by AECOM. 

The aims of this project was to better understand the steps that can be taken to ensure decommissioning, site restoration and aftercare of any potential unconventional oil and gas development can be undertaken in a way that minimises impacts on communities and the environment, and identify different models of financial guarantee that provide robust security against liabilities. The research finds that international and UK experience shows that the risk of leakage from abandoned UOG wells is likely to be low provided best practice is implemented during well construction and abandonment operations under a strong regulatory regime. There is a residual risk that a small proportion of wells may fail, and leaks may occur from these wells under certain circumstances. However, with appropriate regulatory oversight and monitoring, it is considered that, with minor modification to licensing powers, Scotland’s regulatory framework is sufficiently robust to manage risks of well leakage consistent with the aim of providing suitable protection for communities and the environment. The research also finds that, taking lessons from opencast coal mining, there are financial guarantees available which can minimise the risk of operators failing to honour their commitment to decommissioning and the risk of the costs of repair of leaking orphaned wells falling on the public purse.

 Climate change impacts: Undertaken by the Committee on Climate Change.

The aim of this project was to examine the impacts of extraction of Scottish unconventional oil and gas (UOG) on greenhouse gas emissions and climate targets. The Climate Change Committee’s (CCC) overall assessment is that if exploitation of UOG is to be pursued, it requires that a strong regulatory framework is put in place. Exploiting UOG on a significant scale is only compatible with Scotland’s climate change targets if (a) Emissions are limited through tight regulation, (b) Scottish UOG production displaces imports, rather than increasing domestic consumption, and (c) Emissions from production of UOG are offset through reductions in emissions elsewhere in the Scottish economy. In terms of potential implications for global emissions, the report found that the overall emissions footprint of Scottish UOG, if tightly regulated, is likely to be broadly similar to that of imported gas and that initial evidence suggests that tightly regulated shale gas production is likely to have a broadly neutral impact on global emissions, with emissions savings due to switching from higher-carbon fossil fuels approximately offsetting emissions increases due to increased use of unabated gas.

 Understanding and mitigating community level impacts from transportation: Undertaken by Ricardo.

The aims of the transport project were to improve understanding of the increased traffic volumes and associated impacts which would result from unconventional oil and gas (UOG) development, and to identify means of mitigating these impacts. The research finds that the additional traffic movements associated with onshore oil and gas resources are unlikely to be significant or detectable at a regional or national scale, in view of the much greater numbers of traffic movements resulting from other activities. Consequently, the key focus for consideration of potential community impacts of UOG development is the assessment and management of potential impacts on communities local to development sites. Assuming the appropriate strategic policies are put in place, and appropriate mitigation is carried out, local communities would nevertheless experience an increase in traffic numbers, potentially for a number of years. However, provided the planning and Environmental Impact Assessment is properly implemented, any significant impacts would be avoided through the use of appropriate mitigation measures.

Understanding and monitoring induced seismic activity: Undertaken by the British Geological Survey.

The aims of this project were to better understand the levels of induced seismic activity that could be associated with unconventional oil and gas activities in Scotland and better understand the robust regulatory and non-regulatory actions that can be taken to mitigate any noticeable effects on communities. The research has found that Scotland is characterised by low levels of earthquake activity and the risk of damaging earthquake is low. On average there are eight earthquakes of magnitude 2 or above in Scotland every year, which is approximately the magnitude above which earthquakes might be felt by people. Hydraulic fracturing to recover hydrocarbons is generally accompanied by earthquakes with magnitudes of less than 2 that are too small to be felt. Evidence from the United States and Western Canada suggests that the probability of induced earthquakes that can be felt is small, although there are a number of examples of earthquakes that were large enough to be felt. Improved understanding of the hazard from induced earthquakes and the successful implementation of regulatory measures to mitigate the risk of induced seismicity are likely to require additional data from a number of sources, including improved monitoring capabilities.

A Health Impact Assessment, undertaken by Health Protection Scotland and drawing on the expertise of others including NHS Health Scotland and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA).

Health Protection Scotland (HPS) has undertaken a Health Impact Assessment of the potential health consequences of developing unconventional oil and gas. Health issues considered were identified by interested stakeholders, including communities, industry, and experts, as well as via previously published reports. The evidence was assessed via a systematic literature review of peer-reviewed scientific publications, and categorised as being sufficient, limited or inadequate. The report concludes that overall there is inadequate evidence available to draw conclusions on whether development of shale oil and gas or coal bed methane would pose a risk to public health. If unconventional oil and gas developments were to take place, HPS discuss a precautionary approach based on a range of mitigation measures involving operational best practice, regulatory frameworks and community engagement could be adopted.

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