A report commissioned by the Scottish Government to help determine its position on fracking has found there is “inadequate” evidence to determine whether shale oil and gas extraction would pose a risk to public health.
The Government commissioned six reports into different effects of introducing onshore unconventional oil and gas extraction (UOG) in Scotland. But although the health assessment was unable to state if there is a general association between UOG activities and health impacts, the studies found that fracking could cause airborne and waterborne hazards.
The reports also warn there is a “gap in the regulations” relating to decommissioning and aftercare of onshore wells, and that fracking would make it harder for Scotland to meet its emissions targets.
The economic report examined three possible economic scenarios, with onshore unconventional gas extraction generating anything from 470 to 3,100 new jobs, and generating between £100m-£4.6bn.
The Government will launch a public consultation in the New Year, alongside another consultation on its draft Energy Strategy and Climate Change Plan.
Minister for Business, Innovation and Energy Paul Wheelhouse said: “Once the consultation closes and the results have been independently analysed and published we will make our recommendation on the future of Unconventional Oil and Gas and allow Parliament to vote on it.
“After which, the Scottish Government will come to a considered judgment on the future of unconventional oil and gas in Scotland.”
The reports warn that introducing fracking and other forms of unconventional gas extraction would make it harder to meet emissions targets, and that, left unregulated, the emissions footprint could be substantial.
Meanwhile the health assessment found there was sufficient evidence to determine that a number of airborne and waterborne environmental hazards would be likely to occur as a result of UOG operations.
It found that fluids used in fracking “occurred at levels that could pose a risk to UOG workers’ health”, and that there was some evidence that other UOG hazards occurred at levels that could pose a risk to the health of nearby residents.