LONDON (ICIS)--INEOS Shale is “astonished” at the revelation in Scottish court this week that the UK northern country's government has claimed that there is no ban on hydraulic fracturing (fracking), the European energy and petrochemicals major said on Thursday.
In October 2017, Scottish energy minister Paul Wheelhouse announced the outcome of a four-month consultation meant fracking to extract shale gas was banned in Scotland.
“Our consultation demonstrated that communities across Scotland, particularly in areas where developments could take place, have yet to be convinced there is a strong enough case of national economic importance, when balanced against the risk and disruption they anticipate on matters such as transport impacts, risks of pollution and impacts on their general health and wellbeing,” said the minister at the time.
INEOS, however, challenged the ban, questioning the legitimacy of the decision.
The company lodged a petition for a judicial review on the ban, claiming “serious errors” leading up to the decision, including deviation from statutory process and misusing ministerial power.
However, during court proceedings, it was revealed by a government lawyer that no formal ban had been put in place by the government and that the statements made in October were merely “PR gloss”.
The lawyer added that no official position had been adopted and that finalisation of the policy-making process is not expected until October of this year.
“The position of the Scottish government that has now been stated in court represents a staggering u-turn on the policy direction announced by the energy minister during parliamentary debate in October last year, and by the First Minister [Nicola Sturgeon] when she said in parliament that ‘Scotland should welcome the fact that fracking in Scotland is banned’,” said Tim Pickering, operations director at INEOS Shale on Thursday.
“The Scottish people and Parliament may find this revelation barely believable, when the Government has repeatedly told Holyrood [Scottish Parliament] that there is an effective and immediate ban.”
In a strongly-worded statement, he added that the developments during the judicial review have undermined the Scottish government’s statements and cast further uncertainty and ambiguity across the policy framework for onshore unconventional oil and gas development in Scotland.
“Sadly we seem to have reached the Alice-in-Wonderland situation where a business has to go to the Scottish courts to establish whether announcements in Holyrood can be taken at face value,” he said.
“As a result there is now an unpredictable and uncertain environment for business in Scotland. Jobs rely on investment, but there is precious little in Scotland at the present time. The current situation makes it harder than ever for business to invest in Scotland for the long term.”
INEOS said it would now “respectfully” await the judgement from the courts.
Pictured: An INEOS ship transporting shale gas-based ethane from the US to its Scottish facilities in Grangemouth