Plans to build a terminal for importing shale gas in Scotland have come closer to reality after the prospective operator managed to secure a government loan.
Ineos, who owns the Grangemouth petrochemical plant and terminal, received a £230m loan guarantee from the UK government to get the project off the ground.
The company envisions building Europe’s largest ethane storage tank and facilities to process the gas and hopes the project will help protect thousands of jobs across the UK.
"Without doubt, this is one of the most important projects of recent times in Scotland, with implications to be felt right across the UK, not only for employment but also for manufacturing in general,” said Ineos Chairman Jim Ratcliffe,
"Our ability to import US shale gas underpins the future of manufacturing at Grangemouth and across many businesses in Scotland. It is a vital step towards preserving the long term future of the Grangemouth site and those businesses that depend upon its continued presence in Scotland."
The new facility will be part of the Ineos-operated petrochemical plant that was in the centre of a bitter industrial dispute last year.
However, Ineos said it had invested £300m as part of a long-term survival plan for Grangemouth to manufacture petrochemicals beyond 2017.
The loan guarantee from the UK government enables Ineos to raise financing on £230m specifically to cover the import facility and storage tank to be built at the site.
Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander said: "Over £1bn of infrastructure projects have now been brought forward as a result of the UK guarantees scheme and £36nm worth of projects are pre-qualified.
"Our action is creating the right conditions for more investment in our infrastructure, helping to build a stronger economy and a fairer society across the country. The Grangemouth guarantee is fantastic news for Scotland's economic future, and for the UK's energy security."
Ineos said the announcement was a major step forward that ensured the long-term future of petrochemical manufacture at Grangemouth. The company is now finalising contract agreements with specialist engineering company TGE Gas Engineering for the construction of the storage tank.