Energy professor predicts Scottish Government fracking ban

Anti-fracking campaigners
A file photo of anti-fracking protesters outside Holyrood, Edinburgh

The Scottish Government will block fracking as the industry has no “social licence” north of the border, a professor of energy policy has predicted.

Prof Peter Strachan from Robert Gordon University said the Scottish Government was right to take a cautious approach in the broader context of global climate change commitments.

Prof Strachan also said the money needed to support fracking in Scotland would be better spent on supporting North Sea exploration.

He said developments in recent weeks had been political and economic “dynamite”, referring to Ineos’s first US shale shipment to Grangemouth, the approval of the Hinkley Point nuclear facility plans, the UK Government’s decision to permit fracking in Lancashire and the Scottish Government’s banning of underground coal gasification.

Fracking is still under a moratorium in Scotland and Prof Strachan believes there is no economic or social argument for giving it the green light.

He said the short lifespan of the industry means the outlay needed for starting it up can’t be justified.

Some observers have said the volume of economically recoverable shale gas here would only support the industry for a decade.

Prof Strachan said: “It’s an immature industry here. We don’t have a supply chain in place. It would need huge amounts of capital and operational finance to get it going.

“We’d need new pipelines, storage facilities, rigs and other specialist equipment.

“When you look at the current financial problems being experienced by US shale, you have to ask would Scottish banks underwrite shale in Scotland.”

He also said domestically produced shale gas would be expensive and won’t help lower consumers’ energy bills at a time when the market is awash with cheap oil and gas.

Prof Strachan said: “The Tories say shale gas will reduce electricity and heating bills but if you look at what all the experts are saying, it won’t make any difference.

“Current oil and gas prices will not be sympathetic, so the shale gas we produce here won’t be cheap. It might be cheaper to keep shipping it in from the US.”

He said potential damage to the tourism and food and drink industries also had to be factored in when deciding whether to permit fracking.

Furthermore, any promises of job creation should not go unquestioned, Prof Strachan said: “North Sea industry being in a downturn makes it clear that prices are volatile and any jobs created by shale will be subject to that same volatility.”

Prof Strachan added: “The cautious, evidence-based approach from the Scottish Government on balance is sensible. Let’s look at the context and consult on that then have a bigger debate on whether we should go ahead with fracking or not. Both governments need to end the fixation on fossil fuels and look to harness the power of the wind, sun and sea as soon as we can.”