Energy minister Fergus Ewing has announced a moratorium on granting planning consents for fracking developments in Scotland to allow a full public consultation on the controversial issue. Mr Ewing also announced a programme of further research would be carried out into the technique to look at planning, environmental regulation and the impact on public health. Environmental campaigners had called on the Scottish Government to rule out hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking”, for shale gas after a move to introduce a UK-wide moratorium was heavily defeated at Westminster on Monday.
Scotland’s Energy Minister Fergus Ewing hopes four major wind arrays in the firths of Forth and Tay will be built despite a major legal challenge to their development. Bird protection charity RSPB Scotland sent shockwaves through the sector in Scotland earlier this month after a last-minute move to seek judicial review of Mr Ewing’s decision to grant consents for the Neart na Gaoithe, Inch Cape and Seagreen Alpha and Bravo arrays. It is understood the RSPB’s application will come before the courts for the first time in late May and there are concerns within the industry the legal process will prove both costly and lengthy.
A date has been set for the North Sea oil summit. Politicians will meet with industry leaders in Aberdeen on February 2.
The plunge in oil prices represents a “negative shock” to the Scottish economy, Bank of England governor Mark Carney said. Mr Carney maintained that the decline - which has fed through to ultra-low inflation which it is hoped will boost consumer spending - was an overall positive development for the UK. But he admitted that Scotland, which is heavily reliant on North Sea reserves, would face a hit from the fall, which has seen the price of a barrel of Brent crude tumble by more than half since last summer to below $50, a near six-year low.
The First Minister spoke to Energy Voice on her first to Aberdeen since becoming leader of the SNP party. To help the industry, the Scottish Government is setting up an energy jobs taskforce. Nicola Sturgeon said that the “recent drop in the price of a barrel of crude oil” as well as the UK Government’s “mismanagement” of the tax regime for oil and gas could “pose a threat to a number of jobs”.
Powers over fracking for shale gas are poised to become the first of the Smith Commission proposals to be devolved to Holyrood. Labour had insisted that there was no need to wait until after May’s general election to give MSPs extended responsibilities over fracking. The cross-party Smith Commission recommended the power transfer, but shadow energy minister Tom Greatrex said the process should be fast-tracked.
A mineral used as a weighting agent for drilling fluids in oil and gas exploration could be mined at a new site in Scotland under plans unveiled by oilfield service firm M-I Swaco yesterday. The company, part of energy service giant Schlumberger, said the "world-class" project at Duntanlich, near Aberfeldy in Perthshire, would create about 30 skilled jobs and indirect employment opportunities for local suppliers and contractors. Duntanlich is a replacement for the company's existing mine at nearby Foss, which has operated since 1985.
The RSPB has called for a judicial review after the Scottish Government gave consent for four offshore windfarms in the east of Scotland. The charity mounted a legal challenge at the Court of Session in Edinburgh over permission granted last October for four Scottish territorial and round three wind farms. The projects, in the Outer Forth and Tay, include Mainstream's 450MW Neart na Gaoithe, Repsol and EDP's 784MW Inch Cape and SSE and Fluor's 525MW Seagreen Alpha and 525MW Seagreen Bravo.
Scotland’s economy finished 2014 on a “solid footing”, according to a new report. The monthly survey findings by the Bank of Scotland (BoS) found employment and business output grew in December, continuing at the same rate as the previous month. It is forecast that the economy will expand during 2015 but at a slower rate than last year.
Low oil prices could have a direct impact on the Scottish public purse when income tax is devolved, a think-tank has warned. Oil revenues remained reserved to Westminster in both the Scotland Act 2012 and the Smith Commission, but Scotland will receive 10p in the pound from next year with full income tax receipts promised in the next round of devolution. Fiscal Affairs Scotland said it is unclear whether oil prices will return to the average £70 a barrel seen in the last three years.
The final shipment of waste from a Scottish nuclear plant back to Belgium has been completed. It was created during the reprocessing of material sent from Belgium as part of a contract made between the UK Atomic Energy Authority and SCK/CEN of Belgium in the 1990s. The operators of BR2, which carries out materials research and produces isotopes for nuclear medicine, sent 240 spent fuel elements to Dounreay in Caithness during that decade.
Throughout my career I’ve been involved to some extent or other in the development and commercialisation of technology. So, when faced with a selection of technology ideas to back I am acutely aware of the difficulties involved in sorting the wheat from the chaff. Believe me. It isn’t easy because the parameters you need to consider are many and varied and, of course, instinct and experience also count for a lot.
Scotland’s electricity system could be powered almost entirely by renewable energy by 2030, according to a report by an environmental charity. WWF Scotland’s report uses independent analysis by an engineering and energy consultancy to test the Scottish Government’s policy to decarbonise the country’s electricity supply over the next 15 years. It found that an electricity system based on “proven renewables and increased energy efficiency” is a credible way of meeting the target.
The Scottish Government’s oil revenue forecast for the first three years of independence is now out by £15.5 billion, according to the Scottish Secretary. Alistair Carmichael said the latest UK Government analysis showed that 100 days after the referendum, an independent Scotland would have been facing the shortfall following a drop in oil prices. He said “serious questions” now needed to be asked about how the SNP administration “got this so badly wrong”.
The reforms to the oil and gas tax regime announced by the Chancellor and Danny Alexander this week are, of course, welcome. Particularly in light of the Chancellor’s admission that it has been 21 years since the oil and gas industry last received a tax reduction. However, this announcement only goes a short way towards reversing the unexpected and damaging 12% increase in Supplementary Charge tax introduced by Danny Alexander at the 2011 Budget.
The Treasury’s plan to reform the oil and gas fiscal regime is an interesting and encouraging document, which recognises the importance of the industry, while at the same time acknowledging the need to be more competitive in attracting and promoting capital investment in the UKCS. It has the hallmarks of collaboration, with the Treasury accepting that they must adjust their thinking as to tax receipts from the UKCS, and it is the first time in recent memory, committed to black and white, that ‘we are all in this together’. The Treasury does not publish a document of this importance without it having being very carefully vetted.
There are three things wrong with the UK Parliament's approach to the oil industry. Firstly, there is no gratitude whatsoever. Over the last 40 years more than £330,000million has poured into the Westminster Exchequer, around £60,000 per head for every Scot. Scotland's resources have bankrolled successive Tory and Labour Chancellors. They present any crumb of a concession as if it were a gift.
A former Scottish political leader has been defeated in his fifth attempt to win approval for a controversial windfarm in Aberdeenshire. Councillors have upheld the decision to throw out Lord Nicol Stephen’s plans to erect two masts near Blackhills Farm at Cushnie. Campaigners said they hoped the verdict would convince the one-time deputy first minister to finally drop the proposals for the site.
Lord Smith of Kelvin, chair of the Smith Commission on Scottish Devolution, will appear before Holyrood’s newly-convened Devolution (Further Powers) Committee. His report recommended the UK government would remain in charge of licensing for all offshore oil and gas extraction under the proposals but Holyrood could get the power to determine if fracking goes ahead in Scotland.
Energy giant SSE’s electricity network supports almost 2,000 jobs across the north of Scotland and is expected to have contributed £287million to the economy by the end of this year, research has revealed. The Perth-based firm, which manages 77,000 miles of overhead lines and underground cables across the north of Scotland and through its network in the south of England, added that it has invested £126million this year in the Scottish network to increase its resilience. Through its subsidiary, Scottish Hydro Electric Power Distribution (SHEPD), SSE operates its electricity distribution network from John O’Groats through Perth and Dundee, as well as 89 Scottish islands, according to the report by Big Four accountancy firm, PwC.
Amid the growing need for skilled workers in the engineering industry, Shell has confirmed its investment in a programme aimed to inspire the next generation. Tomorrow's Engineers, run by Engineering UK, aims to tackle the skills crisis by encouraging and inspiring more students to study, and pursue, a career in science, technology, engineering or maths.