There are currently six areas in Scotland licensed for onshore oil and gas exploration and development. Two of these areas have fairly advanced coalbed methane (CBM) projects.
The first is at Airth, near Stirling, where a company called Dart Energy is using horizontal and vertical drilling techniques, but not fracking as yet, to extract CBM. Still in the testing stage, the project has 14 test wells already drilled. The company recently held pre-planning community exhibitions and in September 2012 submitted a batch of planning applications to Falkirk and Stirling Councils to take the development to its commercial production phase.
Read the Environmental Statement (non-technical summary) here, and search the Council’s e-planning systems with references P/12/0521/FUL (Falkirk) and 12/00576/FUL (Stirling) for full application information.
The second is in Dumfries and Galloway where Greenpark Energy – now owned by Dart – was the first company to get permission from SEPA to frack for coalbed methane, at a site near Canonbie. The company is apparently seeking another fracking related license for a second site, however the development appears to have stalled, possibly as Dart focuses attention on its Airth project. Again, although it’s still in the testing stage, over 20 planning applications have been granted for this project already.
Read the 2009 Environmental Statement here, also a letter from Greenpark to Dumfries and Galloway Council requesting a variation of planning permission in 2011, and a response from the Council to the effect that fracking is purely operational and has no impact on planning conditions. Finally, Greenpark’s Hydrological Assessment as required by SEPA ahead of granting permission to frack, which contains details of all the chemicals and quantities of chemicals in the fracking fluid the company proposed to use.
Dart Energy also has the exploration right to large areas in Fife,and are hoping to exploit shale reserves in the Lothian and Black Metal Shale so this company is the clear leader of onshore unconventional gas development in Scotland.
A third company – Reach Coal Seam Gas – is hoping to develop CBM in North Lanarkshire, but recently withdrew a planning application for a development at Moodiesburn, following significant public opposition.
It looks like CBM is going to be a bigger issue than shale gas for Scotland, simply because the central belt is covered with coal seams, and CBM exploitation is further developed than shale in the UK.
In early 2013 the UK Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) will launch the tendering process for its 14th round of onshore licensing during which the entire central belt will be put out to tender for gas and oil exploration.
Find out more about how unconventional gas is regulated.