Who is behind the Scottish Government’s fracking research?


Before the moratorium is lifted or a ban imposed, what exactly does the Scottish Government want to know about fracking that isn’t already known? And who is going to find it out for them?

CAMPAIGNERS were initially relieved when the Scottish Government announced a moratorium on methods of unconventional gas exctraction – known also under terms like ‘fracking’ or ‘underground coal gasification’ – but all eyes are now on the government’s research stage before it makes a final decision on whether the practices will have the go-ahead in Scotland.

The government recently revealed which companies have been awarded contracts to carry out various pieces of research. Involving KPMG has already caused some controversy , but what else is known about the companies involved? We take a quick look.


The US-based company will be responsible for helping government “better understand steps that can be taken to ensure decommissioning”.

Aecom began life as the Ashland Oil and Refining company in the 1980s and is currently estimated to be worth $5.665bn USD.

Aecom has been involved in projects such as the Don Sahong dam , condemned by scientists for environmental reasons, and the building of 2022 World Cup-related sites in Qatar where large-scale exploitation of migrant workers has been uncovered.

Aecom’s principal environmental scientist is Ian Campbell , whose previous employers include Schlumberger , a company with a history of environmental infractions including oil spills and missing radioactive material, and Halliburton , one of the world’s largest oil field service companies.


The Netherlands-based company will be responsible for research to “identify and explore different models of financial guarantee that provide robust security against liabilities and improve understanding of associated costs”.

KPMG provides audit, tax and advisory services. The Scottish Government was criticised for awarding the company PS1.7m to establish a tax centre in Glasgow.

KPMG has been subject to investigations over financial impropriety going back over 10 years, including tax avoidance.

Bloomberg and others have estimated that fracking could incur more cost in extraction than it could in the sale of the gas and KPMG has acknowledged that the UK could see less benefit than the US due to the European gas market.

British Geological Survey

The UK-based organisation will be responsible for looking at seismic activity associated with fracking.

BGS is a publicly funded body, and its current research says fracking does indeed cause small earthquakes, although too small to be felt , and is conducting further research.

Ramboll Environ

Another component of the government’s research was due to be carried out by Ramboll Environ UK Limited (Denmark-based), but the contract was recently withdrawn after an investigation by the Sunday Herald found that Ramboll Environ’s senior consultant on the environmental impacts of fracking was in favour of the technology.

Not sure what fracking is? Click here to find out more in our quick explainer.

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Picture courtesy of Matt Brown