The first shipment of US shale gas is arriving in Scotland amid a fierce debate about the future of fracking in the UK.
A tanker carrying 27,500m3 of ethane from US shale fields is due to dock at Grangemouth, the refinery and petrochemicals plant owned by Ineos.
The company said the gas would replace dwindling North Sea supplies and secure the future of the plant’s workforce.
But many politicians and environmental groups have criticised the shipment.
The Scottish government – which has placed a moratorium on all fracking in Scotland while a study into its impact is carried out – said ministers were “unavailable to attend” the arrival of the shale gas shipment.
Jim Ratcliffe, Ineos founder and chairman, said shale gas had helped to secure the 10,000 Grangemouth jobs.
He told BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme that the chemicals industry was “not perfect” and that there would be the “occasional” environmental issue.
Mr Ratcliffe added: “What I am saying is I don’t think it is any different to the chemical industry – there isn’t a product that you buy or consume that doesn’t require a chemical of one form or another.
“And the chemical industry is extremely good at managing environmental issues and safety issues, but it is not perfect. It is like a puncture in your car – occasionally you get a puncture and occasionally we have an accident in chemicals.”
The company said the shipment aboard the carrier Ineos Insight was the culmination of a £1.6bn investment resulting in eight tankers forming a “virtual pipeline” between the US and the UK and Norway.
Ineos argues that with the North Sea’s supply of ethane dwindling, plus costs, the shipments from the US are the only way of bringing in sufficient gas at low enough prices to maintain its olefins and polymers business at Grangemouth in the face of global competition.
It believes the US shale gas will provide sufficient raw material to run its manufacturing site at full rates, something that has not been possible for many years.
The Grangemouth facility is home to Scotland’s only crude oil refinery and produces the bulk of fuels used in Scotland, with the site said to contribute about 3% of Scottish GDP.