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Grangemouth open for fracking

Chemical company INEOS’ Grangemouth plant has opened for its first shipment of fracked ethane from the USA.

Gordon Milne, INEOS Grangemouth Operations Director explained:

“When US shale gas finally arrives here in the autumn, this plant will move into the premier league of European petrochemical plants. Bringing the site back into profitability is the best way to secure our future here in Scotland.”

Scottish environmental campaigners are not so bullish.  The Scottish Government has imposed a ban on fracking north of the border, so there is a whiff of hypocrisy about importing fracking by-products from elsewhere.  However, these concerns are unlikely to hold much sway in a chemical industry whose UK (North Sea) sources of ethane have been dwindling for more than a decade.

In practice, the real show-stoppers are those affecting US fracking directly.  Wall Street bankers are becoming increasingly anxious about the indebtedness of shale companies in the face of persistent low oil and gas prices.  Moreover, US Energy Information Administration data says that the US shale plays contain about 8 years’ supply of gas rather than the 100 years or more touted in the “Saudi America” myth.

Eight-years of US gas consumption (along with around three years of oil) is not to be sniffed at.  But a (near) future US administration faced with fast falling reserves could re-impose the export ban just as quickly as the Obama administration lifted it.

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