Water volumes for shale gas fracking over 33% MORE than we said previously

And it could be coming to Argyll.In a recent article we used a figure often used in the shale gas industry – that it takes three million gallons of water for each fracking [hydrofracturing - the injection of water, sand and chemicals at high pressure into shale rock - to fracture it and release the gas it holds].

One reader rubbished this figure – claiming, by implication, superior knowledge but conveniently giving no alternative figure, even when challenged to do so.

Because fracking for shale oil and gas is a new industry here, although in more long standing use in America, we wanted to be sure that our facts remained current.

Research has shown that they are not – but that even greater water volumes than we had cited is now required for each fracking.

The rule of thumb in the industry is over 4,000,000 gallons of water a pop.

We note that in a major article on fracking in today’s edition of The Sunday Herald, Environment Editor, Rob Edwards – in disclosing that an extensive area of central Scotland is now marked for potential exploration – gives the figure of 20,000 cubic metres of water per frack. This computes to 4,400,000 gallons.

With several drilling licences granted in a single area – the impact of this process on our water supply is massive.

Then there is ‘flowback’

‘Flowback’ is what returns to the surface of the mixture of water with the chemicals included for fracking [which are often toxic] – and the additional naturally occurring radioactive material in the earth this volume of water absorbs into itself.

Flowback is traditionally pumped into open pits on the site for later disposal [or not].

This ‘disposal’ is a subject the industry simply does not really discuss but research has shown that there is a genuine risk of this dangerous fluid waste penetrating and polluting the water tables or aquifers that provide our drinking water. This has happened in incidents in America and it is why that country is very nervous about the development of the huge Marcellus shale, sitting on the aquifers that supply water to the city of New York.

There is now talk of requiring mining companies to re-use flowback – but this is a new process which may not even yet be in place and is being talked about mainly to pacify any natives right;y concerned about the environmental impact of flowback waste where they live.

It is of interest to Argyll that the exploration area map given by Rob Edwards in his piece today [The dark side of the gas rush] includes all of the Isle of Bute, part of south east and east Cowal and the southern half of the Rosneath peninsula.

The entire area shown for potential exploration drilling and production is a wide belt running diagonally SW to NE from north of a line from Cairnryan in Dumfries and Galloway to north of Lochgoilhead on the west coast, over to [gulp] Torness nuclear plant and north to what looks like Inverbervie, north of Montrose on the east coast.

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29 Responses to Water volumes for shale gas fracking over 33% MORE than we said previously

  1. With no main gas pipeline anywhere in Argyll, and only a few widely dispersed and relatively small towns having a mains gas network, it looks as if fracking would only come to Argyll if more conveniently located resources were exhausted, or if a gasfield was discovered big enough to justify a pipeline connection to the central belt.
    As far as I understand, The Herald has reported that the only fracking proposals in Scotland so far are down on the English border at Canonbie, and the Stirling / Larbert area proposals are for more conventional wells.

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    • The locations you mention are where exploration licenses have been granted but not yet put to use.
      The issue is, in the first instance, exploration drilling to indicate the scale of potential assets. There is nothing of which we are aware that would exclude Argyll territory within the identified zone from exploration drilling.
      Rob Edwards’ article highlights a serious legal deficit which could see mining companies legally bypassing local authority planning to move straight from exploration to production drilling without consulting local communities.
      The Herald team put this issue to five of the local authorities [not including Argyll and Bute] who have territory in the extensive exploration area outlined above – and found what they describe as a ‘concerning’ lack of awareness of the problem.

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  2. At a quick glance newsroom seems to not be defining the 2 different ways of extracting gas clearly shown in the article she quotes, and in other online postings today. But – Robert – considering the huge amounts of monies spent on creating roads into remote wind farms – combined with the huge subsidies involved to support an occasional and very intermittent supply – if a substantial amount of gas was to be found in Argyll would it not be possible to find the monies to lay a pipeline that would supply us with cheaper gas 24/7 ?
    PS We could do with that gas this week because their ain’t a lot of wind forecast – just when we are all going to have to turn up our heating systems.

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    • Sorry if we’ve been blinkered.
      With Rob Trythall’s information tonight, which indicates that Scottish Power’s owner, Iberdrola, is not in a financial position to proceed with the Tiree/Argyll Array, the Scottish Government’s MO is likely to see it go all out regardless for shale gas, given as you say, the volatility of wind.
      While the potential health and environmental impacts of shale gas are very substantial, it is likely that the Scottish Government will favour shale gas over coal seam methane for heavy duty extraction – for the simple reason that the methane emissions are so much more of a hit on climate change. This is a much talked of issue while so few people talk in any detail of the matter of shale gas extraction’s flowback wastes and their disposal.

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    • Malcolm – don’t worry, electricity only provides 8% of UK domestic space & water heating, so I’m sure the system will cope even if it is very cold and there isn’t much wind. Most of the other 92% of heating is done by gas directly.

      I wouldn’t get too excited about the possibility of very cheap gas either – that will only happen if we produce so much that we depress the entire European/Russian/Middle East gas market – an unlikely prospect. As Donne wrote: “No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.” – a good description of the UK where gas markets are concerned. I’m afraid the frackers will sell our shale gas to our European neighbours at the going rate rather than sell it cheap to you :-)

      I’m not particularly enthusiastic about fracking because it seems to me that it will just lead to another ‘dash for gas’ and a kicking of the can down the road when it comes to developing a properly sustainable energy system. That said, we are now a major importer of gas and as such, highly dependent on overseas suppliers for a big chunk of our energy, so from a fuel security and balance of payments point of view, it may be a good thing. The logical way to use it would be as back up for a major increase in renewables, so that we have security of supply for the longest possible time before the shales are exhausted, and keep our annual CO2 production to a minimum.

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    • Malcolm – Statements or opinions on this subject require a base of knowledge, with a considered view clearly expressed. The extraction of “onshore methane” requires discussion predominantly based on the latest scientific evidence, methods and practices validated by long-term study and further corroborated a peer review.
      I say predominantly because human concerns have to be a factor when communities are possibly going to have an industrial process covering vast land masses where there is the greatest urban concentrations.
      The excavation and production processes used for recovering the onshore methane are not tried and trusted methods which have been practiced over decades, who’s safety can be independently quantified.
      This is why they technology is named as “Unconventional”. So to be clear, it is not the methane that is “Unconventional” it is the excavation and production practices which are “Unconventional”.

      Now you might think it is strange that some people want to challenge a burgeoning industry sector which employs Unconventional means of extraction and production, which will cover vast land masses, valuable country side, often next to densely populated urban areas. You might think it odd that people are not convinced by assurances from major corporations that having borehole drilling going under their villages and towns is absolutely safe and there is nothing to worry about because, I mean, it is 800 meters under your house, school, ponds, river etc etc.- nothing can happen. Then you find evidence that in other parts of the world other people have had serious health problems, that some people have settled out of court, so the full extent of legal challenges can never be heard.

      You might even find it absolutely ludicrous that people would ever think of challenging a major corporation, which are currently subject to court proceedings (at this very minute) in other parts of the world, and that these companies chemicals, at this very time, do not have to be disclosed by law in Scotland. I repeat, not in Scotland. There is no mandatory permanent monitoring of air or water quality by SEPA for this industry, there is no mandatory permanent monitoring of borehole integrity, I could go on and on and on.

      So, as a resident in Stirlingshire who’s house falls within a licence area, PEDL 133, for testing/exploration and production of onshore methane, may be now you might pause and ask youself – hang on a minute, do I really know all the facts, is the opinion which I express based on factual “independent” evidence which has come from a trusted none biased source. Or am I unwittingly, perpetuating misinformation which is not based on the latest accepted science.

      Also– you mentioned cheaper gas. When has this country seen cheaper gas or petrol, despite producing billions of barrels from the North Sea. When have gas and oil companies made even small profits. When have consumers received cheaper gas at the expense of their share holders dividends.

      One last thing – regarding the licences area PEDL 133 in the central region ( Falkirk & Stirling) there is currently a live planning application, NOT PASSED YET BY PLANNING AUTHOURITIES OF FALKIRK & STIRLING Councils which has been lodged by a company called DART ENERGY Ltd, as per Sunday Herald’s major cover story by – Rob Edwards, there are justifiable concerns which have not been answered to the satisfaction of the local residents, despite much discussion with the company by various residents and groups. Also, in our area, there was virtually no awareness of the planning application and what in reality this might mean for our location – hence an unbiased leaflet drop was done, within a week, by concerned residents, inviting residents along to the village school for an awareness and information discussion. Dart Energy were asked to attend. Dart declined this offer. However, just as the meeting was about to get underway, two Dart Energy senior employees turned up at the meeting and said they had managed to come after all. The leaflet drop resulted in 250 people turning up at this community meeting, where many residents concerns were not allayed.
      This village school turn-out, is in stark contrast to the five community exhibitions conducted by Dart Energy, over a three month period, which resulted in only 42 residents over a total population catchment area of 240,000 residents.

      Malcolm I hope this information significantly adds to this important subject, which requires the public and local planning authorities to be educated upon. How can the public, local planners and politicians make informed choices when there is little awareness and knowledge of the complexities involved and the technologies accumlulative environment and health effects.

      Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you.

      PS – not looking forward to having methane flaring stacks lighting the sky over the next 30 or so festive seasons – should the authorities grant the planning application that is, (maybe you and others didn’t realise this could last for 30 Years – (25 to 30 years stated in Dart Energys Quarterly and Annual Reports)

      Concerned resident

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  3. A look at any geological map of Scotland would reveal those places that may be sources of shale gas but I don’t think I’ll be tempted to invest in Argyll Shale Gas Exploration plc. Shale gas would only be found in sedimentary rocks which are few & far between in Argyll & only sit to the south and east of the Highland Boundary Fault which runs through Helensburgh, Kilcreggan, Inellan & Rothesay i.e. not much. The only other sedimentary strata site that’s a possible for carbon fuel exploitation is the coal that currently sits underneath the runway at Machrihanish and the Laggan.

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    • - and stretches out under the sea, so if there’s enough gas in that area – and the adjoining Irish area – to be of interest, maybe the most viable export route would be based on plumbing it into the North-West pipeline in the Northern Irish network somewhere north of Ballymena.

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    • Malcolm – Re Boris article
      ( http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/columnists/borisjohnson/9733518/Ignore-the-doom-merchants-Britain-should-get-fracking.html)
      Please re-read my response to your previous response – i.e. important subject, latest scientific evidence, peer review, considered view, AND trusted sources which can be corroborated.

      I would contend that Boris has clearly many admirable attributes, with having copious amounts of charisma and being a complete extrovert – being the most printable/notable. But to suggest that Boris and HIS opinion and knowledge should be used as a pont of reference to base ones own opinion on, is really – ahh! words fail me.

      Regards.

      Malcolm – Statements or opinions on this subject require a base of knowledge, with a considered view clearly expressed. The extraction of “onshore methane” requires discussion predominantly based on the latest scientific evidence, methods and practices validated by long-term study and further corroborated a peer review.
      I say predominantly because human concerns have to be a factor when communities are possibly going to have an industrial process covering vast land masses where there is the greatest urban concentrations.
      The excavation and production processes used for recovering the onshore methane are not tried and trusted methods which have been practiced over decades, who’s safety can be independently quantified.
      This is why they technology is named as “Unconventional”. So to be clear, it is not the methane that is “Unconventional” it is the excavation and production practices which are “Unconventional”.

      Now you might think it is strange that some people want to challenge a burgeoning industry sector which employs Unconventional means of extraction and production, which will cover vast land masses, valuable country side, often next to densely populated urban areas. You might think it odd that people are not convinced by assurances from major corporations that having borehole drilling going under their villages and towns is absolutely safe and there is nothing to worry about because, I mean, it is 800 meters under your house, school, ponds, river etc etc.- nothing can happen. Then you find evidence that in other parts of the world other people have had serious health problems, that some people have settled out of court, so the full extent of legal challenges can never be heard.

      You might even find it absolutely ludicrous that people would ever think of challenging a major corporation, which are currently subject to court proceedings (at this very minute) in other parts of the world, and that these companies chemicals, at this very time, do not have to be disclosed by law in Scotland. I repeat, not in Scotland. There is no mandatory permanent monitoring of air or water quality by SEPA for this industry, there is no mandatory permanent monitoring of borehole integrity, I could go on and on and on.

      So, as a resident in Stirlingshire who’s house falls within a licence area, PEDL 133, for testing/exploration and production of onshore methane, may be now you might pause and ask youself – hang on a minute, do I really know all the facts, is the opinion which I express based on factual “independent” evidence which has come from a trusted none biased source. Or am I unwittingly, perpetuating misinformation which is not based on the latest accepted science.

      Also– you mentioned cheaper gas. When has this country seen cheaper gas or petrol, despite producing billions of barrels from the North Sea. When have gas and oil companies made even small profits. When have consumers received cheaper gas at the expense of their share holders dividends.

      One last thing – regarding the licences area PEDL 133 in the central region ( Falkirk & Stirling) there is currently a live planning application, NOT PASSED YET BY PLANNING AUTHOURITIES OF FALKIRK & STIRLING Councils which has been lodged by a company called DART ENERGY Ltd, as per Sunday Herald’s major cover story by – Rob Edwards, there are justifiable concerns which have not been answered to the satisfaction of the local residents, despite much discussion with the company by various residents and groups. Also, in our area, there was virtually no awareness of the planning application and what in reality this might mean for our location – hence an unbiased leaflet drop was done, within a week, by concerned residents, inviting residents along to the village school for an awareness and information discussion. Dart Energy were asked to attend. Dart declined this offer. However, just as the meeting was about to get underway, two Dart Energy senior employees turned up at the meeting and said they had managed to come after all. The leaflet drop resulted in 250 people turning up at this community meeting, where many residents concerns were not allayed.
      This village school turn-out, is in stark contrast to the five community exhibitions conducted by Dart Energy, over a three month period, which resulted in only 42 residents over a total population catchment area of 240,000 residents.

      Malcolm I hope this information significantly adds to this important subject, which requires the public and local planning authorities to be educated upon. How can the public, local planners and politicians make informed choices when there is little awareness and knowledge of the complexities involved and the technologies accumlulative environment and health effects.

      Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you.

      PS – not looking forward to having methane flaring stacks lighting the sky over the next 30 or so festive seasons – should the authorities grant the planning application that is, (maybe you and others didn’t realise this could last for 30 Years – (25 to 30 years stated in Dart Energys Quarterly and Annual Reports)

      Concerned resident

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  4. With all of the objections that folks raise about windfarms, hydro schemes, coal generation even with carbon capture, energy from waste et al, one wonders if there will be a benign acceptance of fracking since this is one of the policies that together with nuclear, Westminster see as the way forward.

    Aside of the cycling of water and chemicals through shattered rock strata most certainly has the potential to pollute aquifers and water supplies.

    Indeed, the gas releases could also present problems, as could geological instability. But let us not look an economic gift horse in the mouth.

    The legacy of getting it wrong will be a legacy for future generations, not that the current economic wizzards in Westminster would know.

    I wonder how much fracking will be done in Westminster since there is much gas down there.

    Yes,and I’ve it said that London clay is a great repository for nuclear waste with it being relatively plastic and self sealing . Hmnn?

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  5. Your article above seems rather concerned about water volumes used in the fracking process.

    We are not used to thinking in industrial volumes as private citizens, so I thought I would find a comparison which might make it easier to relate to Argyll.

    Cruachan Dam stores 10 million cubic metres of fresh water. Divided by 20 thousand cubic metres, that is 500 fracks. If we can believe Wikipedia, the power station can empty the reservoir in about 20 hours, i.e. about 140 cub.mtres per second. So a frack is the water equivalent of about 2.5 minutes of Cruachan at full power.

    The typical rainfall in Argyll is some 2000 to 3000mm per year. The amount of water which falls on the Cruachan catchment area (23 million sq.metres) annually is thus at least 46 million cubic metres, i.e. 2300 fracks.

    Water availability is not a problem In Argyll!

    I must try to find out what happens to the return water from a frack. It’s apparently only a little stronger in similar chemicals to the typical washing machine wash cycle (50 grams in 5 or 6 litres). It is probably around the same as produced daily by a city such as Glasgow.

    I think the industry could easily find the water and dispose of it safely, where ever the fracking occurs.

    Here’s hoping I have got all my decimal points in the right place!

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  6. Jim D – I hear what you say – but much prefer Scott Rs and Boris’s posts.
    Having been brought up in the Lothians where East, West and Mid Lothian were totally undermined for coal and shale oil – I have no bad memories. The black bings from coal extraction and the red bings from the shale were part of our lives. They were not so numerous that they affected everyday life – but they were visible. They employed huge numbers of workers and of course kept our Power Stations supplied with the fuel to keep all our lights on and Industry / Commerce working.
    Things have move on – some will say there is a problem related to Global Warming even although others say there has been no increase in temperatures over the last 15 years and the whole thing is about ripping off the customers.
    I’m not sure which method of extraction you are referring to but have to say it is perhaps your turn to accept a new industrialised Scotland for the sake of the common good.
    Maybe you would prefer several 125m high wind turbines a few hundred metres away clogging your brain during the day and severely disturbing your sleep overnight.
    However – thank goodness we live in a democracy which allows both of us to publish totally different points of views

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    • Malcolm – “They were not so numerous that they affected everyday life – but they were visible.”

      Phew! For a minute I was worried you had experienced a volte-face & were talking about wind turbines!

      In a kind of a way, I do agree with you. Urban areas are where the great majority of energy is consumed, so if it can be produced nearby, that makes good sense. That’s why I’m such a fan of Whitelee :-)

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      • Right Tim – lets look at Whitelee – Europe’s biggest onshore wind farm. I would need 3 calculators laid side by side to work out what that place costs the consumer, not only in the £billions of direct subsidies added to our electricity bills, but in a percentage of earnings ( ie income) it takes away from traditional power suppliers and therefore contributes to their increased prices and leaves the paying customer in a clear ‘ no win’ situation. Incidentally, as a fan you will no doubt be able to tell me what the actual employment numbers are for the wind farm – not including the park employees. A wind farm up north proudly boasted recently that it would have 3 full time workers – beat that!
        However the good news for Whitelee is that being unreliable most of the time and having probably produced very little recently due to the High Pressure over the whole country- there are gales coming along so that they again will produce nothing because they will have to be locked down – and should the wind drop and they start producing overnight they will again have to be shut down because of lack of demand, and they will get paid in the region of £200+ for every £45 worth of electricity they are supposedly not earning.( I can see the regular 3 thumbs down already )
        Now compare that to, for instance, a coal mine on the same site – huge employment – production 24 hours a day – or another scenario – perhaps a rig extracting gas – potential employment figures seem fairly high – controlled production 24 hours a day – and NO SUBSIDIES.
        Oh by the way – has anyone noticed that the Kyoto Treaty – re cutting CO2 emissions is dead in the water – interestingly, one of the countries who did not sign up to the treaty in the first place was the US of A – which is now the only country in the world presently cutting its CO2 emissions substantially.

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  7. Economic neccessity, until it was proven to be otherwise, used to deploy the rather fine principle of shouting Gardie Loo ( phonetic spelling ) before horsing the night soil out into the street.

    Of course with folk slipping on the mess, the smell and the odd outbreak of plague ande the like, the practice was discontinued.

    No doubt there are still some of the same persausion since you often see rubbish by the road side, and on an industrial scale, some of the oil majors and others have managed the odd mess or two – ergo Exon Valdis, Bp in the Gulf of Mexico, the Tokyo Power Company who ran Fukishima , Union Carbide in Bhopal or even the asbestos indudtry who moved things to thrid world countries.

    And so it may prove with the dash to frack, or fruck as it may more approriately be called.

    So whilst I am not quite sure what water volumes in Argyll have to do with things, or the chemicals in the frack water back wash ( radio nuclides ?) or the potential contamination of aquifers, let us hope we do not fruck up the environment.

    Or maybe who cares. Live for today, let future generations worry about the past, and let us remove all of these dangerous unsightly windmills that so greviously pollute our land.

    Renewables, who needs em when you can fruck.

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  8. Ed Davey – the Minister responsible for the Renewables scam – has just said on the lunch time news that an independent Scotland would be responsible for the subsidies for its own wind farms. At the last count, several months ago, that was over £400 million pounds guaranteed each year for 20 years and there are a heck of a lot more of them now, than then.
    So with the absolutely massive offshore wind farms proposed – at double subsidies – the bill could shortly be doubled. £800 million paid solely by the householders and businesses in Scotland each year for the next 20 years – for what? – electricity that is already available from traditional sources which can be provided much more cheaply and is guaranteed to turn the lights on or boil a kettle – day or night.
    Napoleon – I have made this point so often this year and you have come out with your usual long winded SNP drivel to say I’m wrong. Well – there you have it, from a Liberal horse’s mouth.

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    • Malcolm – if you listen to the piece again, you will hear Mr Davey preface his comments with ‘There is a danger…’ – a phrase commonly used by politicians just before they make cloud cuckoo comments designed to put the fear of god into the electorate, in the hope that they will vote accordingly.

      His comment seems to me typical of a notable tendency of unionist parties to indulge in painting extreme caricatures of what independence would mean, and is only realistic if you assume that the first act of an independent Scottish government would be to cut all the power interconnectors across the border.

      As I see it, even if Scotland becomes independent, we will almost certainly remain tied very firmly by those interconnectors into the wider UK electricity market, quite probably under the same regulator (Ofgem) and operating with a single common subsidy/obligation regime. No other arrangement would make technical or economic sense for either party, although it may make political sense for unionist politicians at the moment to claim so.

      Scotland needs a market for the low-carbon electricity which it is uniquely able to produce in large amounts at the lowest cost possible (best wind & marine energy resource in Europe), and England needs a supplier to meet its legally binding obligations on decarbonising its energy supply. It’s a business partnership made in heaven whether the two parties are married or not…

      Less clear to me is what would happen to our nuclear power stations in the event of independence. Much of their life they have been exporting cheap night-time power southwards for the benefit of English consumers. When they are finally shut down, will the Scottish taxpayer alone be required to fund their decommissioning?

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    • But was the subsidy contact not made with the UK Government? It sounds like there’s enough work for the lawyers for another generation at least. And we all know how much they cost.

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  9. My goodness Tim – you are taking the place of wee Napoleon in talking nonsense.
    One of the points you fail to realise is that, and as somebody pointed out recently – “if Scotland wants to be Independent of the UK then give the English a vote and it will be guaranteed”.You actually believe there won’t be a backlash – there won’t have to be a good reason Tim – its just human nature unfortunately. So they won’t be buying our expensive wind generated electricity whether they need it or not and we will end up with the albatross round our necks.

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    • Malcolm – Another aspect of human nature is to buy what you need at the lowest possible price, and I think that this probably trumps any feelings of pique which you suppose our English friends will have if we break the union.

      George Osborne cannot meet the UK’s carbon targets solely by building gas turbines and neither can new nuclear do it alone since it is so expensive. Wind turbines in England will continue to make an increasing contribution, but the lower load factors mean higher unit costs. There will be a continuing and expanding market for renewable energy generated in Scotland, of that I am confident.

      Note that I am not saying that this is a reason to break the union – on that I remain open minded. I’m just saying I don’t see it as a reason not to.

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