Report calls for fracking and nuclear power in Scotland

A demonstration against plans for fracking in the Forth Valley. Picture: Lisa Ferguson

A demonstration against plans for fracking in the Forth Valley. Picture: Lisa Ferguson

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The Scottish Government has been attacked for its inconsistent energy policy by a leading expert who has suggested fracking and new nuclear power stations are needed to keep the lights on.

In a paper for the think tank Reform Scotland Dr Stuart Paton says ministers’ rejection of nuclear power contradicts its support of the coal-fuelled power station at Longannet.

There is significant potential for unconventional oil and gas development in Central Scotland in shale oil and gas and coal bed methane

Dr Stuart Paton

He also says the government’s support of off shore oil and gas is inconsistent with its stance on the unconventional gas extraction.

Nicola Sturgeon’s administration has imposed a moratorium on fracking in Scotland and ministers have said they are “deeply sceptical” of proposals to exploit shale gas reserves beneath the ground. The petrochemical giant INEOS is seeking to begin fracking in central Scotland and later this month will import a large consignment of shale gas from the US.

In his paper Power of Scotland: Energy Policy in Scotland, Dr Paton, an adviser to the oil and gas industry and former Chief Executive of Dana Petroleum, said that following the decommissioning of the two Scottish nuclear power stations Scotland will not have base load capacity.

Mr Paton believes that unconventional gas development and new build nuclear capacity would help to fill this gap in supply.

In the paper Dr Paton said:“The Holyrood government has been activist in laying out an energy policy. However, there are a number of contradictions in that policy. It has a commitment to zero emissions from electricity generation by 2020, yet a rejection of nuclear power and continued support for a coal power station at Longannet.

“The government shows unbridled support for the offshore oil and gas industry, but not onshore unconventionals.”

He added: “At present, the problem of base load capacity is satisfied by nuclear capacity, fossil fuel generation and imports. Therefore, without new, non-wind reliant, generation capacity, Scotland will not have base load capacity.

“There is significant potential for unconventional oil and gas development in Central Scotland in shale oil and gas and coal bed methane. INEOS, who own the Grangemouth refinery and petrochemicals complex have acquired interests in Central Scotland demonstrating the potential in this area.”

Dr Paton concluded that opposition to developing fossil fuel resources such as those which can be extracted by fracking is illogical.

“[It is] not a logical objection for the Scottish Government given its support of the offshore industry,” he said, making a call for communities, developers and government to work together to create an onshore oil and gas industry that would be robustly regulated.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “The Scottish Government is taking a cautious and evidence-led approach to unconventional oil and gas. Our moratorium ensures that no fracking can take place in Scotland.

“The Scottish Government has commissioned a series of independent research projects to examine potential environmental, health and economic impacts to inform our evidence-led approach.”

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