Fracking experts to start tests in West Lothian

Fracking has attracted protesters. Picture: Pierre Andrieu/AFP/Getty Images

Fracking has attracted protesters. Picture: Pierre Andrieu/AFP/Getty Images

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A DETAILED study to determine the scale of shale gas deposits in the Lothians is set to be carried out in a move campaigners have warned could be the “first step towards fracking”.

The British Geological Survey will use existing boreholes and wells to assess levels of shale gas deposits between Edinburgh and Glasgow, starting next year.

The £60,000 project will create a 3D model of shale deposits in areas including West Lothian, which could pave the way for more invasive exploration works to begin.

But groups against the controversial process – which involves injecting a mixture of water, sand and chemicals into the ground at high pressure to crack shale rock and release gas – have slammed the move.

Alison Johnstone, Green MSP for Lothian and a member of Holyrood’s economy and energy committee, said: “No-one will be jumping for joy at the news.

“Exploiting shale gas poses a risk to our climate and our carbon targets and there is little evidence that it will bring down energy prices. The Scottish and UK governments must not fall for the hype; it is a dangerous distraction from our renewable future.”

Last year, Westminster overturned a ban on the controversial practice, ruling shale gas was “a promising new potential energy resource for the country”. Now huge parts of Scotland’s Central Belt, including Midlothian and East and West Lothian, which are rich in shale deposits, face being put out to tender by the UK Department for Energy and Climate Change.

Business leaders have argued the unconventional gas industry will secure the UK’s energy supplies into the future and slash prices. But environmentalists fear it can cause small earth tremors, water contamination and environmental damage. Last week, France upheld its nationwide ban on fracking.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Proposals for coal bed methane or shale gas production in Scotland will be studied on their merits. There are no planning permissions granted which would allow hydraulic fracturing [fracking] in Scotland at this time.”