Fracking: Dart ‘desperate’ to revive Airth plan

A coalbed methane extraction drill, similar to the one that would be used at the Airth site. Picture: John Devlin
A coalbed methane extraction drill, similar to the one that would be used at the Airth site. Picture: John Devlin
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ENVIRONMENTAL campaigners have accused Dart Energy of making a “last desperate attempt” to revive its plans for its controversial gas extraction operations north of the border.

Responding to the Australian energy firm’s announcement today that it was placing new shares on the Australian Securities Exchange to raise £12 million for its UK operations, Friends of the Earth Scotland (FoES) claimed the company had failed to mention HSBC had frozen the company’s loan facility due to delays at its Airth project near Stirling.

But the energy company said campaigners were deliberately misrepresenting the situation to promote their own anti-fossil fuel agenda.

Mary Church, FoES campaigns co-ordinator, said the firm which has its European headquarters in Stirling, was pinning its hopes on the Airth project going ahead but had also not highlight the development was currently subject to a lengthy public inquiry after widespread protest.

Ms Church said: “This looks like a last desperate attempt by Dart to convince investors to salvage its highly uncertain and controversial coalbed methane plans.

“The company’s portfolio has been shrinking ever since Dart was kicked out of Australia and had to slash its global workforce by 70 per cent earlier this year. It’s clear that Dart’s hopes of generating income are now pinned on the Airth coalbed methane scheme, but the project faces strong local opposition and a lengthy public inquiry process.

“In today’s announcement Dart carefully fail to mention that HSBC have frozen its loan facility due to delays with the Airth project, and that new Scottish Government planning proposals could make its operations unviable. Dart also fail to recognise the major risk to its gas plans presented by the strength of community opposition at Airth, and throughout the UK as demonstrated at Balcombe.

“Potential investors should beware and think twice before throwing good money after bad money on Dart. Unconventional gas is unsafe, unnecessary and unwanted, and Dart has a Sisyphean task ahead of it to convince communities otherwise.”

The development at Airth which does not involve the controversial fracking process but is based round a series of wells testing for coalbed methane. The company’s proposals have been submitted to the Scottish Government’s reporter and is a meeting is due to be held early next month.

Alex Johnstone, Conservative MSP for North East Scotland, said: “Friends of the Earth Scotland need to enter into argument at a political level and stop these attacks on legitimate businesses. We have seen some disgraceful scenes south of the border by environmental organisations but we need to encourage companies which have a lot to offer Scotland.”

A spokesman for Dart Energy said: “The statement from FoES today should be seen in the context of a press release issued by them last week, stating as fact that Dart Energy was on “the brink of collapse” which was a blatant untruth, and today’s statement from them regrettably continues in that vein.

“Dart Energy has fully informed investors of its financial and operational status. For Friends of the Earth Scotland to suggest otherwise is a continuation of their campaign of misrepresentation about Dart Energy driven solely by their anti-fossil fuel agenda.”