The head of the company which owns and operates the Grangemouth petro-chemicals refinery has warned that shale energy is vital for Scotland’s economy as N. Sea gas supplies dwindle.
Jim Ratcliffe, Executive Chairman of INEOS, issued the warning ahead of a debate calling for a permanent ban on shale gas exploration in Scotland at the annual party conference of the SNP, where party members rejected a bid to toughen up the stance on fracking amid calls for an outright ban by 554 votes to 427.
The party is deeply divided over shale gas, but Scottish Energy Minister Fergus Ewing had earlier kicked the issue into the political long-grass by announcing a two year evidence-gathering programme and consultation, which (coincidentally) concludes long after the 2016 Holyrood elections.
Calum McCaig, SNP MP for Aberdeen South and the party’s Energy spokesman at Westminster – speaking in favour of the motion – said: “What I would like to see is the whole analysis of the whole remit of this contentious issue from a source that I can trust. I trust our government to do this and to do it correctly.”
INEOS has acquired fracking exploration licences across 700 sq miles of central Scotland. The company recently launched the first two of eight supertankers in China which will be used to ferry highly price-competitive US shale gas into Grangemouth because the N. Sea can no longer provide enough domestic gas.
Ratcliffe said: “Shale gas is Scotland’s best and last chance to gain economic independence. We respect the Scottish Government is deep in thought over fracking. It’s an important decision for the country to take. But take too long and the opportunity will pass by.
“England is now moving forward with shale and it would be a tragedy for Scotland if they end up taking the lead in this exciting industry, securing the jobs and investments. It could mean that the north-west of England becomes the next Aberdeen, rather than our central belt.”
“Shale gas will generate jobs and help secure manufacturing. It will encourage investment. It will help communities through our scheme to give local communities 6% of proceeds from shale gas wells.”