Ineos to invest up to $1bn in UK shale gas exploration

Swiss chemicals giant Ineos plans to invest up to $1 billion (£640 million) in shale gas exploration and production in the UK and Scotland, the BBC today reported without citing sources.

Ineos, which has recently acquired rights to explore shale gas in hundreds of square miles of land surrounding its Grangemouth refinery in Stirlingshire, is reported to have applied for further licences in the UK's ongoing onshore licensing round, the report said.

Shale gas, which has recently become a booming business in the US, is natural gas trapped within rock formations underground and extracted through advanced technology known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, where water, sand and fluids are injected into rocks at high pressure and allows the gas to flow out to the head of the well.

Ineos, based in Rolle, Switzerland and the world's fourth largest chemicals company, had in August this year entered the UK shale gas business by acquiring a majority 51 per cent stake in the shale section of a joint Petroleum Exploration and Development Licence (PEDL) in Scotland's Midland valley from BG Group.

Last month it acquired an 80 per cent stake in four shale gas exploration licences in Scotland's Midland valley from Reach Coal Seam Gas.

The 400-km PEDL site adjoins the earlier acquired 329 km PEDL site, which includes Ineos' production complex at Grangemouth.

Ineos, based in Rolle, Switzerland and run by British businessman Jim Ratcliffe, is currently engaged in a $600 million project to bring Shale Gas Ethane from the US to its petrochemical plants in Scotland and Norway.

But fracking has become highly controversial in the US and the UK and critics claim that the chemicals injected into rocks through high pressure will lubricate natural rock fractures and cause earthquakes as well as contaminate drinking water.

British Prime Minister David Cameron wants to change laws so as to allow fracking companies to drill under houses without the owners' permission.