The UK risks become a low-paid theme park for the world if it does not develop domestic shale gas, the commercial director of chemical manufacturer, Ineos, told a conference in London this morning.
Ineos is preparing to import US ethane into Grangemouth as a feedstock for plastic (see Imports below). In May, it described itself as the UK’s third largest shale gas company after acquiring licence areas in north west England, the east midlands and Scotland. It has been holding public meetings about extracting shale gas in central Scotland.
Mr Erwin said if people in the UK wanted plastic they had to decide where the raw material should be produced. He asked: “Do you want to produce hydrocarbons in a highly regulated environment or in countries where standards are poor environmentally, socially and in terms of human rights?”
“Just turning the UK into a theme park environmentally is massively irresponsible. You are exporting the problem. If you call yourself an environmentalist that is just ludicrous.”
He added: “Jobs in a theme park are not very well paid. If you want to work in hotels or theme parks, there are not many well paid jobs. If you want well paid jobs you have to have a mixed economy.”
Mr Erwin said talking to communities in potential shale gas areas was a long-term process, lasting months or even years.
“It is really important that you stand up in front of communities”, he said. “We have a lot of people who genuinely believe this [shale gas exploitation] is a real problem. You have to let them speak. You have to debate with them”.
He said the small number of recently drilled wells was a problem for the industry.
“When people see the shops and hotels are full and the lorry movements are well-managed, they will say ‘What was all the fuss about?’ Until people see this, it is very difficult to use that argument.”
Mr Erwin said Ineos would shortly be launching ships that would bring ethane into its Grangemouth chemical plant from shale gas wells in the Marcellus region of the US.