SWISS chemicals company INEOS has taken delivery of its first batch of ethane from US shale gas, at its refinery in Grangemouth, Scotland.
The 27,500 m3 of liquid ethane – which was transported by the INEOS Insight, a specially-designed Dragon class ship – will revitalise the company's feedstocks after the decline of North Sea reserves. INEOS said the dip in North Sea feedstock supplies has forced the company down to 50% operating capacity, and expects the imported gas to restore operations back to 100%.
INEOS has built a 60,000 m3 storage tank – the largest ethane gas storage tank in the UK – to store the feedstock, which originated from fracking wells in Pennsylvania, US.
The company says the gas will be cracked at the Grangemouth facility to produce ethylene and propylene for plastics production. Some of the products will be shipped to other INEOS facilities such as the Salt End facility in Hull, which produces 100,000 t/y of ethyl acetate; the rest will be sold to other plants including ExxonMobil's Mossmorran cracking facility in Fife.
Jim Ratcliffe, chairman of INEOS, said: 'We are nearing the end of a hugely ambitious project that has taken five years and cost US$2bn, as we begin supply of ethane from shale to our sites in Europe.'
At a press conference in Grangemouth today, INEOS' achievement was acknowledged by the company's industrial partners and the UK government.
David Mundell, secretary of state for Scotland, said: 'It is a new era of chemical production at Grangemouth, and it shows chemical business is thriving.'
INEOS will use eight of the Chinese-built tankers to transport the ethane. The company says four are currently in commission and expects deliveries at a rate of one per week for the next 15 years, once all of the ships are commissioned.
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