MSPs have been warned that Scotland risks losing out on the shale gas revolution amid concerns over a “lack of direction” from the Scottish Government.
Holyrood’s economy committee was told that “myths” have grown up around the safety of the fracking technique used to get at deep underground shale gas.
But MSPs voiced concern after being told that “normally occuring radioactive” materials are flushed with the water during the methane extraction process for shale.
The shale gas revolution in the US has seen energy prices tumble as firms exploit massive reserves. There are major shale reserves in Scotland, but none have been extracted so far.
Ken Cronin, chief executive of the United Kingdom Onshore Operator’s Group told MSPs yesterday that fracking has already taken place in Glasgow and other parts of Scotland for non-shale gas.
But SNP MSP Joan McAlpine said that in her constituency 19 different sites have have been drilled in a small area.
She added that in shale production there may be 12 deparate drilling sites clustered together in one small area.
“If that’s in the middle of nowhere, nobody would bother, but if it’s in the middle of a housing estate, it will have quite a significant impact,” she said.
“If its in a small rural village it’s going to have quite a significant impact.”
Water is flushed out of the ground in shale extraction which includes “normally occuring radioactive materials”, Mr Cronin said
This is only a “small amount” which is fully treated before being disposed of - and not comparable with the levels in something like nuclear waste.
But Ms McAlpine added: “Given that many of these proposals are in built up areas, if I was living in one of those areas I would be extremely alarmed.
“I would like to say I’m reassured, but unfortunately I can’t.”
But Mr Cronin defended trhe safety of fracking ad said it is one of the most heavily regulated industries in the UK.
He added: “Scotland does extremely well in terms of renewable energy, but the reality is that 79 per cent of our heating and cooking comes from gas and in 2030 most of that gas is going to come from outside the UK,” he said.
“It makes sense for us to have some kind of energy security for Scotland.”
Mr Cronin also said new planning guidelines setting out 2.5km buffer zones between towns or villages and energy developments would not work.
“There needs to be a lot more direction from the Scottish Government in terms of policy in this area with the specific issue around separations distances,” he said.
“A fixed separation distance for our industry doesn’t work.”