By Terry Macalister and Damian Carrington
The billionaire owner of Britain’s largest chemical company on Thursday unveiled plans to invest £640m in a bid to kick-start a shale gas revolution, which he claimed could make millionaires out of rural villagers.
Jim Ratcliffe, founder of Ineos, said he wanted to become the industry’s biggest player because fracking was vital to tackle high energy prices that were hurting consumers and killing manufacturing firms.
Ineos has never drilled wells before, but believes it can be successful because it has hired three experienced executives from the US shale boom to help unlock Britain’s potential as a producer.
“I don’t think the UK is in a great place for energy – nor for manufacturing … we are buying the most expensive electricity in Europe. Shale has the ability to change that,” said Ratcliffe at a presentation in London.
Ineos, which ran into controversy in 2010 by moving its tax domicile from Britain to Switzerland, has already acquired two exploration licences, but has applied for a range of others in Scotland and the north of England. It is hoping that an earlier offer to plough back 6% of all revenues into the local community will limit opposition and result in Ineos being rewarded with new exploration permits.
Ratcliffe believed the offer was generous and could be worth up to £400m to a site over 15 years. He said that some people in smaller towns and villages near to any new wells could become millionaires, adding: “I’m OK with that.”
But the company’s own survey commissioned from YouGov showed that even with the community incentive, 41% of those polled in Scotland said they remained opposed to shale extraction. The figure for the UK generally was more positive, with 50% in favour.Read more