Chemicals giant Ineos is to invest hundreds of millions of pounds in shale gas exploration, giving the industry a huge boost.
The company will unveil plans later today to press ahead with its previously announced intention to produce shale gas for its plant in Grangemouth, Scotland.
Shale gas is extracted through a technique known as fracking, in which water and chemicals are injected into rock at high pressure. The process is hugely controversial and has sparked protests at several sites across the UK.
Ineos has acquired licenses to explore for shale gas in the Midland valley in Stirlingshire, and is expected to attempt to win further licenses in other parts of the country.
The privately owned firm, controlled by billionaire chemical engineer Jim Ratcliffe, is expected to to invest hundreds of millions of pounds in the industry – which has slashed energy prices and boosted industry in the US.
Earlier this year the company announced it intends to hand over billions of shale gas revenues to local communites near wells. The move was condemned as a bribe by environmentalists.
Ineos believes cheap shale gas would transform the economics of the Grangemouth site.
Last year Ineos was involved in a major industrial dispute with workers over a “survival plan” which included reducing workers’ pension entitlements, cutting overtime and redundancy pay and instituting a pay freeze.
When its plan was rejected the company closed down the Grangemouth plant. The dispute swiftly became a major political issue and Unite was eventually forced to agree a three year no strike deal and pay freeze and a new pension scheme.