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All eyes on Dart Energy CBM proposal

World Coal,

Experts suggest that companies looking to invest in Scotland’s vast unconventional resources sector will likely be swayed by the outcome of a public inquiry into Dart Energy’s proposed coalbed methane (CBM) development at Airth, near Falkirk.

The public inquiry was deemed necessary by the Reporter appointed by the Scottish Government after Dart Energy appealed to it on the grounds of non-decision, despite several extensions to the statutory deadlines, by Falkirk and Stirling District Councils over its Planning Application first lodged in Summer 2012.

The enquiry is being watched closely by oil and gas groups and companies hoping to tap into some of Scotland’s vast unconventional resources.

A spokesman for the industry body UK Onshore Oil Operators Group said that the outcome of the Dart Energy public inquiry will likely play a crucial role in luring investors, who will only be attracted to Scottish resources if they believe planning permission is likely.

The Australian firm has outlined plans to drill for coalbed methane at 22 wells in the Forth Valley area, but has faced local opposition. Even though the public inquiry was initially held in March, and expected to last three weeks, the outcome has yet to be decided.

Scotland's Energy Minister Fergus Ewing said: "At this time there are no proposals that involve the use of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) techniques in Scotland, and proposals for coalbed methane or shale gas production will be studied on their merits, and considered through the normal planning process.

"Our responsible approach to the development of unconventional gas was confirmed in the Scottish Planning Policy published last week, which introduces rules to ensure no operator can undertake hydraulic fracturing unless they first gain explicit planning consent for that activity."

There is a further question surrounding the destiny of Scottish resources should the nation vote ‘yes’ in the upcoming referendum on independence in September.

These factors have made potential investors wary, and they will closely monitor developments north of the English border for any indication as to whether investment in Scottish unconventional projects is warranted or not. 

Written by Sam Dodson

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