An official field development plan drawn up last year for Dart Energy’s disputed coalbed methane project at Airth near Falkirk says that it will be allowed to release up to five tonnes of gas a day for safety reasons. The Australian company will also be able to burn off gas in flares “on an emergency basis”.
That means that a maximum of just over 1,800 tonnes of methane could be released in a year, and up to 45,000 tonnes over the envisaged 25-year life of the development. Scientists say that methane is 25 times more damaging to the climate than carbon dioxide.
Dart has applied for planning permission to sink 22 wells at 14 sites to extract up to 60 billion cubic feet of methane at Airth. But the application has prompted over 1,500 objections, been delayed by local authorities and is now being considered by the Scottish government.
Last week Falkirk Council agreed to urge the government to hold a public inquiry into the plans, which could cause more delays. Dart, which has recently shed 70% of its staff worldwide, is under commercial pressure to get the go-ahead at Airth, regarded as its flagship project.