Europe has taken its first shipment of US shale gas with the arrival of an Ineos carrier at the Swiss operator’s petrochemicals plant in Norway.
The JS Ineos Intrepid made it to the facility at Rafnes on Wednesday laden with 27,500 cubic metres of gas form the Marcellus shale play in western Pennsylvania.
The vessel, one of a planned fleet of eight so-called Dragon-class units Ineos will use to transport US shale gas to Europe, left the Marcus Hook terminal near Philadelphia earlier this month.
Ineos chairman Jim Ratcliffe said on the carrier’s arrival in Norway: “Shale gas economics has revitalised US manufacturing, it has the potential to do the same for European manufacturing.”
He added: “We are nearing the end of a hugely ambitious project that has taken us five years and cost $2 billion, as we begin supply of ethane from shale to our sites in Europe.”
The deep-water Marcus Hook terminal is connected via the 480-kilometre Mariner East pipeline to the Marcellus shale.
To receive the US gas, Ineos has built two large ethane gas storage tanks at Rafnes and another of its terminals, Grangemouth, in Scotland, where it will use the ethane in gas crackers as fuel and feedstock. It is expected that shipments to Grangemouth will start later this year.
On Tuesday, a Scottish politician said Scotland “would be foolish” if it missed out on the opportunity to develop its own indigenous shale gas resources.
MSP Murdo Fraser, also convener of the Scottish Parliament’s Economy, Energy and Tourism Committee, said: “There is a lively debate in Scotland today and across the UK about fracking.
“Our committee has not considered this issue directly, but my personal view is that we would be foolish to miss this opportunity.”
Fraser told the Upstream Efficiency Forum conference in Aberdeen that many people now losing their jobs in the offshore industry had exactly the right skills to develop unconventional onshore gas.
He added: “The Ineos petrochemical plant at Grangemouth relies on shale gas from the US being shipped across the Atlantic in a fleet of Chinese-built supertankers - and yet, Grangemouth is sitting close to substantial gas reserves right here in Scotland.
“On no level does this make sense, not least the environmental cost of shipping shale gas from Pennsylvania to Scotland.”
Fraser added: “My hope is that, once the elections are out of the way, the Scottish Government will start listening to their own scientists and lift their moratorium on fracking , with the proper controls and regulation in place.”