SHALE gas could rejuvenate the UK’s manufacturing industry, Ineos boss Jim Ratcliffe told a press conference yesterday.
The chemicals firm chairman made the comments after revealing that his firm planned to invest $1bn (£637m) in UK shale gas exploration and appraisal, with “substantial further investment” to follow if the company moved into development and production.
Ratcliffe stated that while “manufacturing in the UK has collapsed”, the shale industry could help turn this around, which would in turn help to balance out the economy. He continued: “And if you want a balanced economy, the economy has to make stuff, rather than just sell services. I’m not an economist, but I hold that simple view.”
Ratcliffe pointed to the success of the shale sector in the US, where there has been heavy investment, as opposed to Europe’s investment focus on renewables.
“Shale today produces about 50 per cent of America’s energy requirements, and renewables produce about three per cent of the energy requirements in Europe, although we have spent more on renewables in Europe and the UK than America has spent on shale,” he claimed. “I don’t think the UK is in a great place when it comes to energy today, and similarly for manufacturing. The electricity in the UK is double the price of the US. And gas is three times as much in the UK compared to the US. Shale has the potential to change that, I believe.”
Gary Haywood, chief executive of Ineos Upstream, reiterated the company’s offer to give six per cent of revenue generated from its shale business back to landowners and the community. He commented: “It’s a very generous offer. We think that it’s important to give people an incentive to look at why you would want shale gas production in the UK.”
PROFILE: INEOS BOSS JIM RATCLIFFE
Jim Ratcliffe has been chairman of Ineos since 1998. Ratcliffe, a qualified chemical engineer and one of Britain’s richest men, began his career at Exxon Chemicals, before moving to manufacturing firm Courtaulds.
This was followed by a stint at private equity house Advent International. Ratcliffe then led a buyout of Inspec Group in 1992, which he left to lead the acquisition of Ineos.
While Ratcliffe is relatively low profile, the Manchester United fan is reportedly the owner of two superyachts, Hampshire and the Hampshire II. He is also said to be a keen marathon runner.
He hit headlines earlier this year when he issued an ultimatum to 800 employees at Ineos’ Grangemouth oil refinery in Scotland, threatening to shut the plant permanently unless pay and pension reforms were agreed. Ratcliffe’s subsequent holiday in the Cote d’Azur onboard one of his yachts was well documented by the press at the time.
He lives with his family in Rolle, Switzerland, where Ineos is headquartered.