Petrochemical giant Ineos has taken a major step towards securing its future - and thousands of local jobs.
One of the biggest employers in the district is celebrating after completing the build of the largest ethane storage tank in Europe at its Grangemouth site which will house liquified shale gas shipped from the United States.
The £200 million project, hailed as a major feat of engineering, is part of a planned £450 million spend being driven by the shale gas revolution in America which has created hundreds of thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in tax revenue.
Bosses say that when one of Europe’s most ambitious industrial projects comes on line in little over a year from now it will provide a secure supply of vital feedstock for the next 15 years that will protect its workforce and “transform” Grangemouth into a market leader.
Ineos has taken the ‘shale gas route’ because the volume of essential ethane from its traditional source, the North Sea, is in decline and led to production at its huge complex to be cut by more than half.
It desperately needed a new source of ethane gas and is backing shale gas - produced by the controversial hydraulic fracturing process which has been slammed by environmental groups as “dangerous” - as the way ahead.
The concrete tank is 56 metres in diameter and 44 metres high - big enough to fit 560 double decker buses inside.
It took six months to construct and the capacity to hold over 60,000 cubic metres of ethane.
Sitting on 12 kilometres of steel pile foundations, when it is full it will weigh 100,000 tonnes.
The huge investment in Grangemouth is part of a billion dollar global project spanning China, America and Europe to bring ethane to the site.
After watching the 330 tonne roof floated effortlessly into place on nothing more than a cushion of air last Friday, John McNally, chief executive officer of Ineos O&P Uk, said: “This is a landmark day for Grangemouth. We know US ethane has transformed US manufacturing and now we are a step nearer our goal of importing US ethane to Scotland and putting Grangemouth back into the premier league of petrochemical plants.
“This investment will secure Ineos with a cost-effective supply of ethane for the next 15 years and give a sustainable base for Grangemouth for that time.
“Bringing US ethane to Europe is a huge undertaking involving Ineos experts from across the globe.
“Raising the roof of this huge tank means yet another milestone for the project has been reached.
“It is still early days as we now set to work on the internal structure of the tank and surrounding infrastructure, but we are on schedule for the first US ethane to arrive in Grangemouth during the second half of 2016.
“With North Sea gas running out we absolutely had to find a supply of gas or close down Grangemouth. The choice was that stark. Shipping gas from the US is the only answer - a truly ambitious and unique endeavour. A UK shale industry will deliver huge benefits to the country, creating jobs and securing skills.”