The British Geological Survey (BGS) has estimated 80 trillion cubic feet (tcf) of shale gas is beneath the Midland Valley of Scotland, a much lower amount than what is said to be elsewhere in the UK, with green groups saying Scotland should not risk missing its carbon goals.
The BGS had previously estimated around 1,300 tcf in the Bowland shale in northern England and 4.5 billion barrels in Sussex Weald. However, it warned that the Midland Valley in Scotland present some uncertainties.
Prof Mike Stephenson, director of science and technology at the BGS commented, “The central estimate of shale gas in place is 80trn cubic feet and the central estimate for shale oil in place is 6bn barrels of oil but reserves cannot be calculated at this stage before drilling and testing take place. The Midland Valley of Scotland has a complex geology and a relative lack of data compared to the previous Bowland-Hodder and Weald Basin studies.”
To campaigners, the data means that shale gas should be left in the ground because uneconomical and is potentially harmful for the environment, as the extraction process known as fracking can cause methane leaks and contaminate groundwater.
Green groups also argued that promoting shale gas in Scotland could affect its goal of getting 30% of its energy from clean sources by 2020 and becoming a leader in the sector.
WWF Scotland director Lang Banks said, “It’s clear that there’s not going to be a shale gas or oil bonanza in Scotland any time soon. While this study should change nothing about Scotland’s aim to decarbonise its power sector and go fully renewable, in the wider interests of tackling climate change, it’s time for Scottish Ministers to commit to start leaving some fossil fuels, including shale gas, in the ground.”
Friends of the Earth Scotland Head of Campaigns, Mary Church, added, “Low headline gas estimates and even smaller potential returns combined with recent planning restrictions mean that Scotland is an increasingly unattractive prospect for the shale industry.
“This is good news for the large number of communities across Scotland faced with the threat of fracking under UK Government plans to license the central belt. This study shows that shale gas and oil will do nothing for energy security, won’t bring down bills and certainly isn’t worth the risk.”