Petrochemical giant Ineos hopes to win the trust of communities across Scotland by laying their fears about fracking to rest.
Shrugging off recent revelations about safety concerns at its Grangemouth site, the firm announced it was starting a major campaign to give the public facts about shale gas extraction.
We have Friends of the Earth saying it’s a bad thing we are doing and we struggle to see why
Last weekend it was revealed Ineos had breached health and safety regulations 34 times in the last four years at Grangemouth and more than 20 staff had suffered injuries there since the start of 2015.
These figures led to claims safety at the site had deteriorated in the last couple of years. But at the launch of the firm’s shale gas information programme on Tuesday, Ineos Group director Tom Crotty pointed out the business was one of the top performers in the chemical sector when it came to safety.
Moving on to the information programme, Mr Crotty said: “This is about trust and openness and getting the public onside.”
Mr Crotty said Ineos welcomed the Scottish Government’s moratorium on fracking and shale gas extraction.
“We can only work within the law. If the law said we were not allowed to do it we could not do it - but I don’t think that will be the logical conclusion here.”
Gary Haywood, Ineos Upstream CEO, said: “The Scottish Government’s cautious approach is fine with us. We will be involved in this information programme for the rest of the year and into the next.
“This will give people the chance to take a balanced view.”
The firm, which holds the exploration licences to look for shale gas throughout Central Scotland, did not rule out the possibility of fracking on its own petrochemical site in the future, but said it would be looking further afield first.
Mr Crotty said: “The best way to persuade people this process is safe is to do it in an area where it will have the least impact.”
Ineos stated incidents of water contamination in the USA were not caused by the fracking process but were down to faulty well construction, something Ineos is taking steps to ensure never happens with its developments.
The shale exploration process was likened to performing “keyhole” surgery on the land, so it would be less disruptive than coal mining.
Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, uses 98 per cent water, 1.5 per cent sand and 0.5 per cent chemical additives.
Those additives are also used in household cleaning products and Ineos stated the process of fracking posed less of a risk to the local water supply than someone who washes their car then empties their soapy bucket down a drain.
Mr Crotty said: “We have Friends of the Earth saying it’s a bad thing we are doing and we struggle to see why.”
Mary Church, of Friends of the Earth Scotland, said: “Instead of wasting money on corporate roadshows to sell fracking to communities, Ineos should be putting its resources into improving the safety of the plant.
“Communities will look at Ineos’s record at Grangemouth when judging the company’s claims fracking is safe.”
Ineos’s plans to ship shale from the USA and store it at Grangemouth are already having an effect on residents.
Mr Crotty confirmed building work on the massive ethane tank near Gate 4B is the reason a section of the town’s Bo’ness Road will be closed for seven months from Monday, March 23 to Friday, October 30.