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The Fruits of Fracking
Shale Passes a Big Transatlantic Milestone…

…and unfortunately for the UK, it’s not about Britain exploring its own sizable reserves of shale gas. No, the only way our neighbors across the pond are going to get their hands on shale gas these days seems to be if we ship it to them. And that’s exactly what’s going to happen next week when the first cargo of American LNG arrives in a Scottish port. Reuters reports:

Chemicals giant Ineos will be importing ethane, obtained from rocks fractured at high pressure, in a foretaste of larger deliveries of liquefied natural gas (LNG) from shale set to reach Europe in 2018.

The shipment of ethane, used to make plastics, anti-freeze and detergents, will arrive in Scotland’s Firth of Forth on Tuesday, accompanied by a lone Scots piper at sunrise, the company said.

There’s an unmissable bit of irony in the fact that the UK’s first shale gas cargo will be unloaded at a Scottish port. After all, Scotland has placed a moratorium on fracking itself. Those aren’t unrelated, either: the company importing this shale-derived ethane would surely like to source it more locally to avoid the shipping costs, but popular and political opposition is making that impossible in Scotland today.

As North Sea oil reserves dwindle and the costs of decommissioning the massive rigs plumbing those offshore fields mount, Scotland and the rest of the UK is going to need to take a hard look at its domestic energy options. Once it does, it won’t take much time to come to the conclusion that shale hydrocarbons can and should play an important role in shoring up British energy security in the 21st century.

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