Chemical giant Ineos wants to expand its UK fracking portfolio with a £640m investment bid that would make it the UK’s biggest player in the industry.
The Switzerland-based multinational, already owning two licences for shale gas exploration near its petrochemical plant in Grangemouth, Scotland, covering about 120,000 acres, is applying for further licences in Scotland and the north of England.
"I believe shale gas could revolutionise UK manufacturing and I know Ineos has the resources to make it happen, the skills to extract the gas safely and the vision to realise that everyone must share in the rewards," said Ineos chairman Jim Ratcliffe, openly stating his ambition for Ineos to become the UK’s biggest fracker.
Ineos said it will give local communities 6 per cent of the revenues from any shale gas it produces, worth an estimated £375m. The company is also investing some £400m on a project to start delivering US shale gas to Grangemouth.
"We believe our knowledge and experience in running complex petrochemical facilities, coupled with the world-class sub-surface we have recently added to our team, means that Ineos will be seen as a very safe pair of hands," said the company’s chief executive Gary Haywood.
However, environmental groups were less than pleased with the proposal.
"Investment is essential to transform our energy system, but not giant speculative bets on unproven and risky resources. Ineos have jumped on a spin-powered bandwagon which is going nowhere,” said Simon Clydesdale, energy campaigner at Greenpeace UK.
"Independent academics recently called out government ministers over the ludicrous levels of hype around shale gas, saying 'shale gas has been completely oversold'. It seems that Ineos have based their business plan on breathless PR brochures rather than scientific reports.''
Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, involves pumping water, chemicals and sand at high pressure underground to fracture shale rock and release gas. The method has been associated with an increased risk of earthquakes and is feared by some to possibly cause widespread environmental damage.