The first shipment of US shale gas has arrived in Scotland as campaigners step up calls for a ban on fracking.
A tanker carrying 27,500 cubic metres of ethane from US shale fields travelled through the Firth of Forth towards Grangemouth early on Tuesday.
A piper stood on the bow of the Ineos Insight vessel and played as it passed under the rail and road bridges.
The tanker was due to dock at the Ineos refinery and petrochemicals plant at Grangemouth at lunchtime on Tuesday, however its arrival was hampered by high winds.
The captain of the boat said it was not safe in the current conditions and that it should be moved back to deeper waters.
A welcoming ceremony went ahead at the chemical giant’s base on Tuesday in the absence of the vessel.
Ineos said the shipment aboard the carrier was the culmination of a £1.6bn investment which has seen eight tankers carry the gas between the US and the UK and Norway.
The firm says the shale gas will replace dwindling North Sea supplies and secure essential raw material for Grangemouth, supporting around 10,000 jobs.
Each of the tankers or “dragon ships” is as long as two football pitches. They are the largest ethane gas carriers ever built, each weighing 20,000 tonnes.
Each vessel is forecast to travel the equivalent of five return journeys from Earth to the moon during the course of the contract.
To receive the gas, Ineos has built the largest ethane gas storage tank in the UK at Grangemouth.
It is the first time such a large quantity of ethane has been shipped, and the firm anticipates that it will move 40,000 barrels of shale gas every day for the next 15 years.
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.”
Scottish Enterprise’s managing director of growth companies, innovation and infrastructure, Adrian Gillespie, said: “We’ve been working intensively with Ineos since 2013 when the company cemented its commitment to Scotland in a £455m investment plan.
“This £150m ethane project is a key part of that investment and we are pleased to be supporting it with a £9m grant, helping safeguard or create over 400 jobs.”
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.”