Unconventional oil and gas

We have taken a cautious, evidence-led approach to considering unconventional oil and gas (UOG) in Scotland. 

On 3 October 2019 we confirmed the Scottish Government’s finalised policy position of no support for UOG development in Scotland. This means development connected to the onshore exploration, appraisal or production of coal bed methane or shale oil or shale gas using unconventional oil and gas extraction techniques, including hydraulic fracturing and dewatering for coalbed methane.

2015 Moratorium

On 28 January 2015, we put in place a moratorium on UOG development in Scotland which prevents hydraulic fracturing and coalbed methane extraction taking place. The moratorium allowed us to undertake a far-reaching investigation into UOG.

A separate moratorium and review into Underground Coal Gasification (UCG) was put in place in October 2015.

More information about the techniques used to extract UOG is available on our unconventional oil and gas techniques factsheet.

Evidence gathering

We have compiled a comprehensive evidence base on hydraulic fracturing and coalbed methane extraction to examine the potential environmental, health and economic impacts, and to inform our evidence-led approach.

This has included commissioning a report by an Independent Expert Scientific Panel, and commissioning a series of research projects that produced the following reports:

In 2016, officials held a series of meetings with stakeholders to give them an opportunity to discuss participation and engagement in the consultation on unconventional oil and gas. The meetings resulted in a participation commitment report.

We commissioned Health Protection Scotland (HPS) to carry out a health impact assessment looking into the potential health risks and wider implications associated with exploration and exploitation of shale oil and gas and coal bed methane. HPS co-ordinated the work, drawing on the expertise of others including NHS Health Scotland and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA). HPS published their report on 8 December 2016. Read the report on the HPS website.

Public consultation

In January  2017 we launched Talking “Fracking”: a consultation on unconventional oil and gas, which invited views on the evidence of the potential impacts of unconventional oil and gas in Scotland, and on the future of the industry. The consultation received more than 60,000 responses, and we published an analysis of the responses on 3 October 2017.

In response to the analysis, the Minister for Business, Innovation and Energy made a statement to the Scottish Parliament saying that the Scottish Government’s preferred policy position is not to support the development of UOG in Scotland. The preferred policy position is subject to statutory and other assessments before the policy-making process was completed.

Statutory and other assessments

We published a consultation on a  Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) and a partial Business and Regulatory Impact Assessment (BRIA) of unconventional oil and gas development in Scotland from October to December 2018.

We published an addendum to the 2018 consultation documents, after considering the responses, and consulted on this over an eight-week period to 25 June 2019. 

The analysis of the 2018 and 2019 consultations, and the consultation responses, were published on 03 October 2019.

As part of the SEA process, we are required to publish a Post-Adoption Statement (PAS), which outlines ways in which the findings of the initial SEA and addendum, and the views expressed by consultees on both documents, have been taken into account within the final policy. We published the PAS on 27 February 2020.

Review of Underground Coal Gasification

On 8 October 2015, we put in place a moratorium on Underground Coal Gasification (UCG), so that we could gather and consider evidence on:

  • its potential to contribute to Scottish industry and energy
  • the potential environmental, health and regulatory issues associated with UCG
  • whether the technology exists to allow for safe extraction and/or on specific gaps and actions

The resulting independent review of underground coal gasification report was published on 6 October 2016. Having considered the report’s findings, Scottish Ministers determined that UCG poses numerous serious environmental risks and should not be used in Scotland at this time.