First U.S. Shale Gas Arrives in U.K. as Ethane Cargo to Land

  • Cargo on Ineos Insight arrives amid U.K. fracking debate
  • LNG cargoes from U.S. are yet to arrive in northwest Europe

The JS Ineos Insight arrives to dock at Grangemouth in Scotland, U.K., on Sept. 27, 2016.

Photographer: Andy Buchanan/AFP via Getty Images

The U.K. is about to receive its first American shale gas.

The Ineos Insight tanker carrying ethane -- a feedstock for chemical production -- will dock at Grangemouth, Scotland, tomorrow, Richard Longden, a spokesman for petrochemical maker Ineos Group Ltd., said by phone. The arrival was delayed from midday Tuesday due to winds and is expected to land Wednesday depending on the weather, he said. U.S. liquefied natural gas, used in heating and power generation, has yet to reach northwest Europe.

The tanker carrying 27,500 cubic meters (970,000 cubic feet) of ethane is the first shipment of gas produced from U.S. shale fields to arrive in Britain, and is part of Ineos’s $2 billion investment to create a virtual pipeline across the Atlantic. The Ineos Insight is one of eight vessels that will deliver the fuel at the Grangemouth refinery as North Sea supplies dwindle.

Ethane from the U.S., “has the potential to build on the jobs already saved at Grangemouth and could turn the site into a manufacturing hub for Scotland,” Ineos said in an e-mailed statement.

The arrival of U.S. shale gas comes as Britain debates its own stance on hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, a technology already shunned by most nations in mainland Europe. While the Conservative government vowed on Monday to continue supporting shale gas, which would reduce dependency on imports and help meet the U.K.’s needs for 47 years, the practice drew criticism from the opposition Labour Party as well as from the nation’s Green Party.

“Britain should be a frack-free nation -– that means keeping the gas under our countryside in the ground and banning fracked gas imports,”  Caroline Lucas, the co-leader of the Green Party, said in e-mailed statement.

Ineos is seeking to develop the British shale gas business to replace declining North Sea production. It was granted 21 exploration blocks in the last U.K. Licensing round and hopes to start drilling within two years, according to its operations director Tom Pickering.

Ineos will use the ethane produced from U.S. shale gas in its gas cracker at Grangemouth, both as a fuel and as a feedstock, it said in the statement.

Increased production of ethane, which is extracted from unprocessed natural gas along with other liquids, has boosted exports from the U.S., first by pipeline to Canada and then by tanker to overseas destinations. Ethane is used as a key feedstock for plastics production and other industrial uses, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

U.S. exports of LNG, which is natural gas chilled to a liquid for transportation, started in February from Cheniere Energy Inc.’s Sabine Pass terminal in Louisiana. Most cargoes went to Latin America, the Middle East and India. Two arrived in Europe’s Iberian peninsula, which doesn’t have pipeline access to northwest Europe’s links to supplies from Norway, Russia, the U.K. and the Netherlands.

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