As North Sea gas dwindles, will Ineos throw its weight behind fracking in the UK?

Ineos, one of the world’s largest chemicals manufacturers, looks set to throw its might behind efforts to kick-start a shale gas boom in the UK.

The multinational company, which operates one of Europe’s largest oil refineries at its site in Grangemouth, was previously expected to support companies carrying out explorative shale gas drilling.

However, Ineos has now said it is “more or less likely” to apply for a shale gas extraction license itself.

Speaking to the Guardian, Ineos director Tom Cotty said: “Britain needs gas as part of its new energy strategy, both as a bridge to renewables and as a backup to intermittent [wind] power generation. If you have gas, why not use your own? Doing something [in terms of shale gas extraction] would be more or less likely for us, but as to exactly what we do not know yet.”

He added: “Clearly we need a degree of confidence that there is the gas that everyone says there is. The British Geological Survey [BGS) has given its view, but we need to make our own assessments.”

The BGS has estimated that there could be 1,300 trillion cubic feet of shale gas beneath the north of England alone.

Ineos requires large amounts of gas in its chemical production businesses at Grangemouth and at another plant at Runcorn.

As North Sea gas reserves dwindle, Ineos is looking to secure its future gas supplies. The firm has already invested considerably in its Grangemouth facility enabling it to deal with shale gas extracted from the USA.

Crotty criticised the efforts of existing drilling companies hoping to exploit shale gas in the UK. He said that those companies “have not done a good job selling it. You have a situation here which has developed accidentally. The companies that hold licences tend to be small and under-capitalised. They think ‘we need big guys to come and buy us out’.”

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