News reported by DrillOrDrop that the Scottish Government had extended an Ineos shale gas licence near Glasgow has disappointed campaigners.
The licence, called PEDL162, reached the end of its initial exploration term at the of June 2018. To continue to the second, appraisal phase, the operator should have drilled a well. But Ineos and the previous operator, Reach Coal Seam Gas, failed to meet the condition.
Despite this, the Scottish Government has given Ineos another year to explore for gas in the 400km2 licence area.
There had been calls in the Scottish Parliament and through online petitions for Ineos to be stripped of the licence. There has already been one extension to the initial term, which was initially due to end in 2014.
The extension comes as the Scottish Government carries out a formal assessment of the impact of a permanent ban on unconventional oil and gas development in Scotland. A decision is expected by the end of the year but in the meantime, there is a moratorium on fracking and other unconventional techniques.
Ineos and its partner in the licence, Reach Coal Seam Gas, recently lost a legal challenge to the Scottish Government’s policy on fracking and unconventional oil and gas.
“Adds to confusion”
Responding to the licence extension, Mary Church (right), Head of Campaigns for Friends of the Earth Scotland, said:
“Extending this licence risks adding to the confusion caused by INEOS’s recent legal challenge, and only increases the pressure on the Scottish Government to move forward with its decision-making process, legislate to ban fracking and draw a line under this issue for good.
“It is disappointing that the Scottish Government has opted to extend the license that was due to expire last month, when people locally and nationally have said no to fracking so clearly. The operators have already had one extension to this license and despite having consents in place before the moratorium on fracking, they hadn’t fulfilled their drilling commitments, so clearly this license should have been revoked.
“While it is unlikely that the operators will be able to do much in terms of advancing their shale gas ambitions in 12 months, it is an uncomfortable position for the Scottish Government to take given its opposition to fracking.”
DrillOrDrop reported last month that more than 3,000 people had signed a petition urging the Scottish Government’s Energy Minister, Paul Wheelhouse, to rescind the licence. More than 20 community councils and three community groups also urged the minister not to extend the licence.
In a letter to a campaigner, a Scottish Government official said:
“In relation to the request for an extension to the initial term of PEDL 162, as a competent licensing authority, it would be a dereliction of Scottish Ministers’ responsibility not to consider this request, taking into account all the relevant factors.”
The official added:
“The Minister has asked me to emphasise that a moratorium on UOG [unconventional oil and gas] planning consents remains in place which means no local authority can grant planning permission at this time and Ministers would defer any decision on any planning application that did come forward until the policymaking process is completed.”
DrillOrDrop invited Ineos Upstream to comment on the licence extension. This post will be updated with any response.
PEDL162 was one of 12 licences where the initial term was extended even though the commitment to drill an exploration well had not been met. DrillOrDrop reported they included four licences in South Wales and seven in England.
Updated 8/7/2019: The Scottish Government extended PEDL162 for a second time (link). The policy-making process to ban fracking in Scotland remains underway.