Industry Body Accused of Misleading Parliament over Unconventional Gas Dangers

The unconventional gas industry – which is already at the centre of a row over fracking dangers –was today accused of misleading a parliamentary committee over the potential risks from coal bed methane extraction.

Mr Ken Cronin, Chief Executive of The UK Onshore Operators Group (UKOOG), told the Economy, Energy and Tourism Committee of the Scottish Parliament that coal bed methane extraction did not produce surplus water requiring disposal.

SNP MSP Joan McAlpine questioned Mr Cronin about the production of water during the extraction of unconventional gases when he was giving evidence to the committee of the government’s new planning framework, NPF3 on 5th February 2014.

Mr Cronin told the committee:

“The water is removed in unconventionals only in shale gas extraction; coal bed methane does not use water in the same way. It is used only during the hydraulic fracturing phase.”

In fact, this form of unconventional gas extraction produces large amounts of water which requires treatment and disposal.  This is confirmed by all scientific and technical bodies including the US Geological Survey and the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency.

Ms McAlpine has now written to Murdo Fraser MSP the Committee Convenor asking that Mr Cronin be called back to explain his comments, which could prejudice the debate over unconventionals at a sensitive time.

Commenting, the south of Scotland MSP said:

“In my South of Scotland region, the developer Dart Energy has received planning permission to drill 19 wells around the scenic village of Canonbie and their own paperwork admits that this will produce hundreds of thousands of gallons of water which will be removed from the ground to get the gas out.”

Ms McAlpine’s call was backed by Bill Frew of the group Canonbie Residents Against Coal Developments (CRACD) who said:

“The paperwork from Dart in the planning applications indicates that they will take out up to 16,000 gallons of water each day from each well.

“The Gas Pressurisation Unit, which will undertake the final gas/water separation processes, will have a capacity to handle up to 154,000 gallons of water per day, and a million cubic metres of gas per day.”

Ms McAlpine added;

“Yesterday (Tuesday), along with constituents from Canonbie, including Bill Frew, I met Lin Bunten of SEPA, who confirmed that large amounts of water are produced in coal bed methane extraction and that this water must be treated before being discharged into water courses.

“Canonbie is a scenic, rural area, economically dependent on tourism and agriculture and my constituents are extremely worried about the production of copious amounts of dirty water which can contain toxins such as radioactive material and heavy metals.

“I am extremely concerned that Mr Cronin has given highly misleading information to a parliamentary committee at a very sensitive time in the debate over the safety of unconventionals.

“I have written to the Convener of the Committee to suggest that Mr Cronin be called to explain why his organisation gave such a misleading answer to me on such an important subject for my constituents, as well as the many people in Scotland worried about the environmental impact of unconventional gas extraction.”


Notes to editors:

Ms McAlpine’s letter to Murdo Fraser MSP is attached.

The Energy Economy and Tourism Committee report can be accessed here:

doc icon Press-release-Industry-body-accused-of-misleading-parliament-over-unconventional-gas-dangers.docx
doc icon Letter-re-evidence-of-5-February.doc