Ineos Will Focus on Fracking in England

31.05.2016 -

As the Scottish Parliament prepares for a potentially acrimonious debate on the environment and climate change on Jun. 1, which will include fracking, petrochemicals giant Ineos – meanwhile one of the biggest players in the shale gas “game” – claims it has turned its back on Scotland. Tom Crotty, Ineos’ director of Corporate Affairs, said the Swiss-based petrochemicals giant, which operates the mammoth chemical complex at Grangemouth, Scotland, has deployed its geologists and petrochemical engineers “to 100% in England.”

Crotty said Scotland will “miss out” on the shale gas revolution, at a time when oil and gas reserves in the North Sea are dwindling. “We have effectively redeployed our resources south of the border,” he said, adding that Ineos has been “fairly clear” with the Scottish government” that the delay in the decision-making process “is not helpful.”

The Ineos executive said his company was especially unhappy with a statement by Scotland’s new energy minister, Paul Wheelhouse, that fracking will not be allowed unless there is “proof beyond doubt” that it would not be a threat to human health or the environment.

A decision by the Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP) will ride on the outcome of ongoing safety studies, its leaders say, but Labour has tabled a motion to discuss the issue in the interim. The two political parties have been throwing daggers at each other for some time, not just over fracking. Picking up on the anti-fracking sentiment in the country in the recent Scottish elections, Labour leader Kezia Dugdale called for an outright ban on fracking.

Labour lost badly, but SNP lost its majority, so that both need a chance to gain profile. While Labour MSP Claudia Beamish, the party’s environment spokeswoman, has contended that the government moratorium does not go far enough, the SNP-led government has accused her of “headline grabbing.”

Whatever the outcome of the Scottish fracking studies, Ineos’ chances to begin exploration in England, where the government is fracking-friendly look far better, anyway. It can thus afford to so bide its time until the picture farther north looks more favorable.

Ineos’ prospects brightened further last week, when England’s North Yorkshire County Council, by a vote of  7-4 and over huge public opposition, approved an application by Third Energy to frack a well near the village of Kirby Mispelton. This was the first project to receive approval since the Tory-led UK government gave the green light for drilling in 2012.

If Third Energy’s tests find the rock formations suitable, the company can apply for permission to produce on a large scale. This, reports said, could lead to several hundred wells being drilled across the hills of North Yorkshire.

Some local groups opposed to fracking have said they will disrupt any drilling activity. Free Frack Ryedale said Third Energy has “no social license” to operate because 36 of the more than 4,900 responses to the council’s consultation were in favor of fracking.