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Society calls for Scottish fracking review

Scotland in January placed a moratorium on the drilling practice.

By Daniel J. Graeber
Royal Society of Edinburgh calls for review of reserve potential and concerns associated with hydraulic fracturing. Photo by photostock77/Shutterstock
Royal Society of Edinburgh calls for review of reserve potential and concerns associated with hydraulic fracturing. Photo by photostock77/Shutterstock

EDINBURGH, Scotland, June 22 (UPI) -- Hydraulic fracturing in Scotland could give the Edinburgh government some autonomy over the energy sector with few environmental impacts, a policy paper read.

The Royal Society of Edinburgh, the premier scientific academy in Scotland, said the controversial drilling practice known also as fracking offers Scotland important options for onshore natural gas.

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"Onshore production of unconventional gas would allow Scotland control over all regulation surrounding extraction and production," the paper read.

Fracking involves the use of water, abrasives and a trace amount of chemicals to coax oil and natural gas out of shale deposits. Critics argue the practice carries with it a significant amount of risk, ranging from an increase in minor earthquakes to contamination of regional water supplies.

The society's paper said the environmental impact of shale gas production is on par with conventional gas production, "although a degree of uncertainty is present."

Fracking is in its infancy in the region. The Scottish and Welsh governments have each placed moratoriums on the drilling practice and environmental campaigners have called on the rest of the community to follow suit.

The Royal Society of Edinburgh said gas accounted for 10 percent of the electricity generated in 2013, 35 percent came from nuclear power, 20 percent from coal and nearly all of the rest came from renewables. The government aims to decommission nuclear power stations by 2023 and gas production from the North Sea is in decline, meaning onshore production is a viable asset, the paper said.

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The society said public acceptance is a necessary component of any consideration for a regional hydraulic fracturing program. Taking no official stand on the matter, the society recommended that the Scottish government "consider investing funds to reduce the areas of large uncertainty, notably those surrounding health impacts and potential [shale gas] reserves."

The Scottish moratorium was enacted so legislators could take time to review public health or other concerns associated with hydraulic fracturing.

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