The company that owns and operates the Grangemouth petro-chems refinery has warned that it could jettison its plans to create a large-scale shale energy industry in the Central Belt and instead invest in England.
INEOS owns petroleum exploration licences for some 700 sq. km around its Grangemouth site, as well as a number of other licences in England.
Senior executives are frustrated at the two-year moratorium imposed by Scottish Energy Minister Fergus Ewing earlier this year.
Tom Pickering, Operations Director, INEOS Shale, said: “At the public meetings I have attended people come to me and highlight safety concerns they have read about on the internet.
“Sadly there has been much misinformation put out about shale gas. So much so that those same people are then surprised when I tell them the Scottish Government’s own expert panel has already concluded that shale production is safe if best practice is followed.
“We were delighted to be host a stand at the SNP conference last week as it gave us a chance to talk directly to the membership of the SNP.
“We believe that Shale gas can be produced safely and could create thousands of jobs and bring substantial economic benefits to the nation.”
In 2011, INEOS was faced with a stark challenge. Its US petrochemicals businesses were booming, fuelled by cheap ethane from shale gas. At the same time the European businesses faced increasing competitive pressure.
In Scotland, North Sea gas supplies were close to exhaustion and in Norway restricted availability of volumes INEOS requires. If nothing was done, there was a risk the Scottish businesses could close, taking thousands of jobs with it.
So INEOS drew up a $1 billon masterplan to design and build a fleet of eight shale supertankers to ship 800,000 tons of US shale gas to Grangemouth
.Jim Ratcliffe, Executive Chairman, INEOS, said: “People said it couldn’t be done. At INEOS we believe everything is possible.
“The only way to save the European businesses was US gas. But you can’t build a 3000 mile subsea pipeline. So the answer was a shipping fleet to create a virtual pipeline across the Atlantic, connecting gas reserves with the businesses that desperately needed them. The only problem was that no-one had ever shipped ethane that far and in those quantities.
“LNG has been shipped around the world for decades. Ethane though is a different matter. It had only ever been shipped in small vessels on short routes. Crossing the Atlantic would need much bigger boats. Other companies felt it simply wasn’t viable. But INEOS saw the opportunity and had the vision to make it happen.”
INEOS, however, regard the shale supertankers as a ‘temporary’ solution to the development of a native shale gas industry in Scotland without which major doubts have over the long-term future of the Grangemouth plant.
See for yourself;
Video shows the Shanghai shipyard in China where a workforce of 5,000 people have built the first of the INEOS shale supertankers
One SNP councillor said: “Not only would INEOS create and safeguard thousands of potential new Scottish energy jobs, you’ve got to ask why we could’nt also have created 5,000 shipbuilding jobs in Scotland for their shale tankers?”
Meanwhile, a former oil and gas worker who managed Alex Salmond’s constituency office has been appointed to replace suspended MP Michelle Thomson as the SNP’s business spokesman at Westminster. Hannah Bardell, now MP for Livingston, is the SNP’s new business, innovation and skills spokeswoman, taking on the role vacated by Thomson after she was suspended following the launch of a police investigation into transactions involving her property firm.