A Scottish court has ruled that there is no legal ban on fracking after a legal challenge by Ineos Shale - but a number of European countries have made their opinions far more clear by banning shale gas extraction outright
Fracking is a highly contentious issue that divides people like few other methods of energy production – but its status across many parts of the world remains skewed.
Extracting shale gas from deep underground is common practice in countries including United States, Canada and China, but in others it is banned.
In Scotland, it is less straightforward. The Court of Session – the country’s supreme civil court – ruled yesterday (19 June) that fracking in the country was not legally banned as the policymaking process remained ongoing.
London-based petrochemicals giant Ineos lost a legal dispute it lodged against the Scottish Government after energy minister Paul Wheelhouse said there was an “effective ban” on the practice – with Lord Pentland saying the challenge was “unfounded” because “there is no prohibition against fracking in force”.
Ineos actually “welcomed” the decision, with Tom Pickering, operations director of its fracking arm Ineos Shale, saying it cleared up that “there is no fracking ban” in Scotland.
Yet there remains a principal lack of support for unconventional oil and gas drilling in the country, which has devolved powers from the UK Government.
Local councils can’t approve planning applications for fracking sites and Scottish Government ministers are not going to make decisions on applications “until the policy-making process is completed”, according to Mr Wheelhouse.
Fracking is a controversial method of extracting shale gas that involves fracturing rocks underground and blowing the crack wider by pumping in water, sand and chemicals.
Environmental campaigners say fracking comes with a huge risk of contaminating water supplies due to the chemicals used in the process.
While not everyone agrees, they have the ears of some governments that have put fracking on the backburner – at least for now.
The Republic of Ireland pushed an outright ban on fracking through its upper chamber on 28 June last year.
Irish president Michael D Higgins went on to sign the Petroleum and Other Minerals Development (Prohibition of Onshore Hydraulic Fracturing) Bill 2016 into law.
A Green Party senator tagged on an amendment saying the Government should refuse to renew exploration licenses for other fossil fuels – including oil, gas and coal.
Production of oil and gas will be banned in France by 2040 following the passage of a bill through the country’s parliament at the end of last year.
Permits and licences to extract key fossil fuels will not be renewed beyond that date across France and its territories.
France was the first European country to place a ban on the fracking method of shale gas extraction in 2011.
Bulgaria followed on from its fellow EU member state France just a year later, banning the practice of fracking in 2012.
The Government also snatched an exploration permit for shale gas from the US energy corporation Chevron in the same year. Chevron pulled out of the country just two years later.
It is said the Bulgarian Government implemented the law as a response to widespread protests against fracking.
Anti-fracking law banning the extraction method found its way onto the statute books of Germany in 2016.
The law was less radical than some of those put forward by the peers of Germany as it included no clause banning conventional drilling methods for oil and shale gas.
Exemptions for scientific and academic studies involving fracking were also included in the bill.
Nevertheless the use of water, sand and chemicals in extraction was banned in no uncertain terms – and not just for a moratorium period.
Taking a similar approach to its French neighbours, the Netherlands put a five-year rest period on shale gas drilling in 2015 and refused to renew shale gas exploration licences from that point onwards – setting the law for expiration in 2020.
Former Dutch economic affairs minister Henk Kamp was the man to introduce the moratorium on fracking, and his successor Erik Wiebes said in February that the Government would not resume the practice of handing out fracking permits.