The first shipments of US shale gas will begin to arrive in the UK from the end of September, representatives of chemical giant INEOS have confirmed.
Ethane, which is derived from liquefied natural gas (LNG), will be shipped from the East Coast of the United States to INEOS’ UK plant at Grangemouth, Scotland.
This will be the fourth such shipment of US shale gas to arrive into Europe following the lifting of a 40-year ban on US oil and gas exports.
Ports in Norway, Portugal, and Spain have all received LNG shipments beginning in March.
The news also comes after Scottish MPs voted in June to ban fracking after a moratorium on shale gas extraction was imposed last year.
Green campaigners, however, have criticised the shale gas shipments on climate grounds, and continue to question the environmental standards of the company supplying the natural gas.
Friends of the Earth Scotland Director, Dr Richard Dixon, said: “Our concerns about fracking are firstly, it’s more fossil fuels, so it’s bad for climate change, and secondly, it has local impacts on people and wildlife.”
Unconventional shale gas sees the release of significant methane emissions throughout its lifecycle, and as Friends of the Earth argues, is incompatible with efforts to tackle climate change.
Proponents of shale gas, however, including the British Government, argue it can be used as a ‘bridge fuel’ to transition away from coal.
Ethane, a component of natural gas that can be separated and turned into liquid for transport, is being supplied to INEOS by Range Resources, a company that has committed 174 environmental and health violations over the span of three and a half years, DeSmogBlog reported last year.
As Dixon pointed out: “They’ve been accused of doctoring drinking water sample records, and they were threatened with a $9 million fine recently but that seems to have been lifted because they’ve come to some deal with the regulator.”
“They’re not a great company,” he continued.
An Environment America report outlined how in September 2014, the company was fined $4.1 million after it leaked fracking fluid into water and soil from wastewater impoundment ponds, harming a ‘high quality’ stream.
The latest records from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection list 704 violations by the Range Resources in the 16 or so years since records began for the company.
According to INEOS, the gas will be used as the main ingredient to produce plastic, among other things.
“Obviously there’s an energy cost in doing that, which probably has a climate change consequence,” Dixon said, “the question is what happens to that plastic at the end of the day.”
He added: “It may get recycled a few times, eventually it’s going to be disposed of somewhere or it’s going to end up being burnt.
“Because there’s lots of energy in it, that’s increasingly the more likely route. So that does mean carbon will get into the atmosphere at that point in the next decade or three.”
Photo: Shell via Flickr