Swiss firm bids to be British shale gas giant

Swiss-based chemicals firm Ineos launched plans Thursday to become the biggest player in Britain's fracking sector with a $1-billion investment in the nation's shale gas industry.

Swiss firm bids to be British shale gas giant
Ineos chairman Jim Ratcliffe. Photo: AFP

"Ineos has today announced it is planning to invest $1 billion (£640 million) in UK shale gas exploration and appraisal," it said in a statement which also sparked anger from environmentalists over the controversial energy extraction method.
Ineos, headquartered in Rolle in the canton of Vaud, added that "substantial further investment would follow if the company moved into development and production".
The company already has fracking licences near its plant at Grangemouth in Scotland, but is applying for more in Scotland and northern England.
"If Ineos wins all the shale gas licences it has applied for, Ineos will be the biggest player in the UK shale gas industry," the statement added.
In order to extract shale gas, a high-pressure blend of water, sand and chemicals is blasted deep underground to release hydrocarbons trapped between layers of rock.
Campaigners argue that the controversial process — known as fracking, or hydraulic fracturing technology — causes water pollution and earth tremors, while energy groups say it drives down gas prices, creates jobs and boosts economic growth.

'Revolutionize' manufacturing?

"I want Ineos to be the biggest player in the UK shale gas industry," said chairman Jim Ratcliffe.
"I believe shale gas could revolutionize UK manufacturing and I know Ineos has the resources to make it happen, the skills to extract the gas safely and the vision to realize that everyone must share in the rewards."
Ineos already has two fracking licences for over 120,000 acres, and has also invested £400 million in a project to bring US shale gas into Grangemouth, which is Scotland's only oil refinery.
The company has also pledged to give local communities six percent of the revenues from shale gas production.
Addressing a London news conference, Ratcliffe told reporters on Thursday that the offer to local communities was "generous" and could be worth up to £400 million over 15 years.
The Ineos boss said some people could become millionaires, adding: "That's fine."
And he said that manufacturing in the UK had "collapsed" and needed a boost such as cheaper energy from shale gas. "It could be the saviour of manufacturing," he said.
Thursday's announcement was however slammed as "hype" and "risky" by Greenpeace.

'Spin-powered bandwagon' 

"Investment is essential to transform our energy system, but not giant speculative bets on unproven and risky resources," said Simon Clydesdale, energy campaigner at Greenpeace UK.
"Ineos have jumped on a spin-powered bandwagon which is going nowhere," Clydesdale said.
"Independent academics recently called out government ministers over the ludicrous levels of hype around shale gas, saying 'shale gas has been completely oversold'."
But the announcement was welcomed by British Prime Minister David Cameron's government.
Energy minister Matt Hancock tweeted that he was "delighted" at the news, which he described as "a strong stride forward for this important domestic energy source".
Cameron had announced in January that his government was going "all out for shale" as it seeks to create more jobs, boost taxation revenues and reduce Britain's reliance on foreign energy sources.
European Union states are, however, divided on fracking, with countries such as France banning the controversial process.
Oil output in the United States is, meanwhile, soaring as the nation embraces a shale energy revolution.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


Denmark to clamp down on chemical-containing toys

The government is to introduce new legislation against toy products that contain harmful chemicals.

Denmark to clamp down on chemical-containing toys
A number of 'squishies' were withdrawn from the market in Denmark earlier this year. Photo: Mads Claus Rasmussen/Ritzau Scanpix

Minister for the Environment and Food Jakob Ellemann-Jensen and Business Minister Rasmus Jarlov are to beef up legal framework against companies and suppliers who sell dangerous toys.

Rule changes will mean that complaints can be pursued whenever toys containing hazardous substances are sold, regardless of whether the seller was aware of the issue at the time of sale.

Currently, prosecution is only possible when sellers willingly sell unsafe toys.

“In future it will also be possible to punish companies that are slack with safety,” Ellemann-Jensen said via a press statement.

“As such, companies will be increasingly responsible for what they sell,” the minister added.

Jarlov said he expected retailers and importers of toy products to improve practice as tighter rules are introduced.

“I think this will make companies, that perhaps weren't as thorough before, think a little more about the rules,” he said.

The government measure comes after reports earlier this year of the withdrawal from the market of certain products of squishies, a soft toy made from foam. The toys were found to contain potentially harmful chemicals.

The Ecological Council (Det Økonomiske Råd), an independent environmental organisation, welcomed the move but added that labelling on products was the best way to promote safety.

“The bulk of the responsibility is on producers and this would help the stores that sell toys,” the organisation’s senior advisor Lone Mikkelsen said.

“That would give customers the option of choosing for themselves not to buy, for example, hormone-disrupting chemicals that are not yet forbidden in toys,” Mikkelsen added.

READ ALSO: Denmark pressures EU on everyday chemicals