Scotland politics

What do the Scottish government's six fracking reports say?

The Scottish government wants the public to say whether the controversial oil and gas extraction technique - known as fracking - should take place in Scotland. To help people decide, it commissioned a number of expert reports. Here is a brief overview of all six.

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1.Economic impacts and scenario development (By KPMG)

  • The aim was to better understand the potential aggregate impact of fracking on the Scottish economy.
  • It looked at a range range of scenarios.
  • It considered key sectors and groups that were likely to be affected by each scenario.
  • Each of the scenarios was developed on the basis that exploration would be 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 a lifecycle to the year 2062.
  • This could lead to direct expenditure of £2.2b in Scotland over the period, which could give supply chain benefits and other induced economic benefits of an additional £1.2bn over the period and be responsible for the creation of up to 1,400 jobs at its peak in the Scottish economy.
  • The report highlighted other potential economic considerations, including the use of gas as feedstock in the petrochemical industry and a mixed impact on house prices.

2.Decommissioning, site restoration and aftercare - obligations and treatment of financial liabilities (By AECOM)

  • The aims was to better understand the steps that could be taken to ensure minimum impact for decommissioning, site restoration and aftercare of any potential fracking development.
  • Based on international and UK experience, the risk of leakage from abandoned fracking wells was likely to be low provided best practice was implemented during well construction and abandonment operations.
  • There was 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 was considered that, with minor modification to licensing powers, Scotland's regulatory framework was sufficiently robust to manage risks of well leakage.
  • 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 to the public purse.

3.Climate change impacts (By the Committee on Climate Change)

  • The aim was to examine the impacts of extraction of 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.
  • Initial evidence suggests that tightly regulated shale gas production is likely to have a broadly neutral impact on global emissions.

4.Understanding and monitoring induced seismic activity (By the British Geological Survey)

  • The aim was 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 could be taken to mitigate any noticeable effects on communities.
  • The research found that Scotland was characterised by low levels of earthquake activity and the risk of damaging earthquake was 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.

5.Health Impact Assessment (By Health Protection Scotland)

  • The aim was to 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, a precautionary approach could be adopted which involves operational best practice, regulatory frameworks and community engagement.

6. Understanding and mitigating community level impacts from transportation (By Ricardo)

  • The aim was 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 found that the additional traffic movements associated with onshore oil and gas resources were 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 were put in place, and appropriate mitigation was 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 was properly implemented, any significant impacts would be avoided through the use of appropriate mitigation measures.

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