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27 September 2016, 07:57 | Updated: 27 September 2016, 08:08
Environmental campaigners have stepped up calls for a ban on fracking ahead of the first shipment of US shale gas arriving in the UK.
A tanker carrying 27,500 m3 of ethane from US shale fields is due to dock at Grangemouth, central Scotland, the refinery and petrochemicals plant owned by global chemical giant Ineos.
The company said the shipment aboard carrier Ineos Insight was the culmination of a 2 billion US dollars (£1.6 billion) investment resulting in eight tankers forming a ''virtual pipeline'' between the US and the UK and Norway.
Ineos says the shale gas will replace dwindling North Sea supplies and secure essential raw material for Grangemouth, supporting thousands of manufacturing jobs.
Jim Ratcliffe, Ineos founder and chairman, said: "This is a hugely important day for Ineos and the UK. Shale gas can help stop the decline of British manufacturing and today is a first step in that direction."
Debate over the future of fracking in the UK was renewed on Monday as the UK Labour Party followed Scottish Labour in backing a ban on fracking for indigenous shale resources.
Green groups warned that the shipment of shale gas would be used by Ineos to renew calls for the Scottish Government's moratorium on fracking to be lifted.
Mark Ruskell MSP, the Scottish Greens' climate, energy and environment spokesman, said: "As well as shale gas, the so-called 'dragon' fleet of ships docking in Scotland will also bring with them a renewed campaign by Ineos for fracking to be given the go ahead.
"The Scottish Government must legislate for an outright ban on fracking because its vague 'moratorium' policy is clearly giving hope to fossil fuel giants intent on digging up Scotland.''
Meanwhile, Friends of the Earth Scotland highlighted the experience of residents of Pennsylvania, where almost 10,000 gas wells have been drilled.
Head of campaigns Mary Church said: ''It is completely unacceptable to attempt to prop up Ineos's petrochemicals plants on the back of human suffering and environmental destruction across the Atlantic. The fact that Scottish public money is tied up in this project is disgraceful.
''Setting aside the devastating local impacts of fracking, the climate consequences of extracting yet more fossil fuels are utterly disastrous. If Jim Ratcliffe was really concerned about the future of the Grangemouth plant and its workers, he would be planning for its transition to a low-carbon model.
''We urge the Scottish Government to act swiftly to ban fracking and start planning seriously for a fair transition to a low-carbon economy across all sectors. Fracking should not happen here in Scotland, or anywhere.''