usiness heavyweight Jim Ratcliffe has reignited his calls for his firm Ineos to drill a shale gas test well in the UK.
Ratcliffe, one of Britain’s richest men, said the country desperately needed to up the supply of home-grown energy sources to better protect it from the energy crisis.
The prices of oil and gas have spiked after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which has hit supply partly because of sanctions on Russian commodities.
Ineos, which is one of the world’s largest chemicals and energy companies, hopes for a receptive ear from the new prime minister Liz Truss, who has lifted the ban on fracking as part of her energy strategy in a bid to get home-drilled gas flowing.
The Conservatives had previously banned fracking, a technique for recovering gas and oil from shale rock, in 2019 after new research raised heightened fears about the risk of earthquakes as a result of the technique.
Tom Crotty, Ineos director, said shale had helped “transform the energy landscape and the local communities in the US”, which he claimed was “well protected against the energy crisis as it is making the most of its natural resources”.
“It can do the same here in the UK,” he said.
“We have promised to invest the first 6% of the value of the gas back into local communities.
“It goes without saying that the government would also have an increased tax take.”
Ineos reiterated that it had inveted heavily in hydrogen and carbon capture and storage, but that gas had to play a part in the transition towards these sources of energy.
“The country needs gas for at least the next 30 years,” Crotty added.
“It is patently obvious that we should be using our own gas instead of shipping it in from abroad.”
Georgia Whitaker, oil and gas campaigner for Greenpeace UK, said fracking would not make the UK less dependent on volatile gas market or reduce carbon emissions – and may not work at all as the UK does not “have the vast empty expanses of the USA” where fracking has been widespread.
“Before the fracking moratorium, the industry had 10 years of the Government ‘going all out for shale’ and giving them all the support denied to onshore wind,” she added.
“In that time, the frackers produced no energy for the UK but managed to create two holes in a muddy field, traffic, noise, earthquakes and enormous controversy.”
Besides fracking, a report from Offshore Energy UK earlier this week stated that there were £26 billion worth of potential oil and gas projects in the North Sea, but that even if all of these were exploited, the UK would still need to import about half its energy usage.