Scotland is sitting on some six billion barrels of oil trapped in shale, according to a new report from the British Geological Society (BGS). The country’s Midland Valley, running between Glasgow and Edinburgh, is also home to an estimated 80 trillion cubic feet of shale gas. That can certainly shore up Scottish and UK energy security, but, as the FT reports, getting that oil and gas out of the ground will be a mite more difficult than it was for the Clampetts:
Andrew Aplin, professor of earth sciences at Durham university, played down the impact Scottish shale resources would have on meeting UK energy needs. He suggested the formations were geologically challenging to exploit by fracking and that neither the rocks nor the oil appear to be of “optimal” quality. […]“Since neither the rock nor the oil is of optimal quality in the Midland Valley, we might estimate that 1 per cent of the Midland Valley oil resource might be recoverable. This would equate to 60m barrels, which is about two months of UK consumption. It could be a lot of effort for not very much reward,” he added.
While we shouldn’t take this news to mean that Scotland is on the way to energy independence, neither should we ignore this much oil and gas. This is also, perhaps unsurprisingly, playing into the Scottish independence debate. UK Energy Minister Michael Fallon pointed out that “[o]nly the broad shoulders of the United Kingdom can attract investment in new energy sources and maintain the UK’s position as one of the world’s great energy hubs—generating energy and generating jobs.”The UK has so far failed to develop any of its shale resources, as relatively complex geology and staunch local opposition have frustrated investors and policymakers keen to capitalize on the only recently recoverable resources. Whether Scotland can succeed where Britain has failed remains to be seen; we’ll be watching.