Chemicals company Ineos has said it hopes to begin exploring for shale gas in central Scotland “very soon”, with fracking potentially underway by 2018.
The owners of the Grangemouth chemical plant have also announced that local communities and homeowners will be given a share of the profits of shale gas extraction.
But Friends of the Earth Scotland described the compensation plan as a “transparent attempt to bribe” those affected.
Ineos announced it was to give 6% of its shale gas revenues to homeowners, landowners & communities who live above its shale gas operations.
The company founded by billionaire Jim Ratcliffe has a 51% share in the rights to explore fracking in a 127 square mile area around Grangemouth and the Forth Valley.
It’s also applied for rights to explore for shale oil in other parts of the UK under the UK Government’s 14th round of onshore oil and gas licensing. Some of the land involved is in central and southern Scotland.
The company estimates over £2.5 billion will be handed out under the scheme.
Jim Ratcliffe, INEOS founder and chairman says, “We think this is a game changer for Britain.
“Giving 6% of the revenues to those living above our Shale gas operations will give them a real stake in the success of the venture and encourage the development of the whole Shale gas industry”.
He added: “Giving 6% of revenues to those directly above Shale gas wells means the rewards are fairly shared by everyone. It’s what they do in the USA and we think it is right to do this here. It democratises the Shale gas revolution”.
Asked when they hoped work would begin in Scotland, Ineos director Tom Crotty told STV News: “We hope to start exploration very soon. In terms of when people would see money flowing back, when real production gets underway, I think you’re probably looking at something like 2018. The money starts to flow as soon as the gas starts to flow.
“We’ve got to explain to people exactly what we’re doing, what the risks are, and what we’re doing to mitigate the risks.
“It’s like having a building site in your area. You’ve got six months of disruption, followed by 20 years during which you get value from the building.
“This is very similar. It’s six months of disruption while we drill and frack these wells, then 20 years when they’re capped off and start to generate real income for those local communities.”
But Friends of the Earth Scotland’s head of campaigns Mary Church said: “This transparent attempt to bribe communities and homeowners to accept fracking in their backyards will be rejected by people who value their health, their community and their local environment.
“Fracking is a dangerous, dirty industry and all the money in the world can’t hide that.
“Ineos’s offer relates to the production phase which is a good 10-15 years off, if indeed the industry ever gets that far.
“Even if climate, health and local environmental issues weren’t a factor, it’s far from certain whether there is an economically viable resource at all in Scotland.
“It is quite possible that communities across Scotland will see potentially hundreds of wells fracked in their back yards only for the industry to walk away without handing so much as a penny to the people who have lived with years of disruption. Once again, spin-masters INEOS appear to be trying to fuel the shale gas hype at minimal risk to themselves.”
The UK Government announced that it would introduce legislation to remove people’s right to stop drilling of this type underneath their homes.
The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) said it will press ahead with proposals to simplify underground access for oil and gas developers despite the objection of 99% of respondents to a consultation.
The UK-wide plan would give companies the right to drill at depths of 300 metres or more under private land without negotiating a right of access.
The proposals were criticised by the Scottish Government, and Energy Minister Fergus Ewing said decisions on oil and gas drilling in Scotland should be made by the people who live there, and powers relating to the issue should be included in the current devolution process.