Sir Jim Ratcliffe, one of Britain’s richest men, has set his sights on the US shale gas industry as his fracking ambitions in the UK wane.
The owner of petrochemicals giant Ineos is on the hunt for shale gas investments within the US fracking heartlands of the Permian Basin, according to sources.
The billionaire industrialist is understood to have begun assessing a number of US shale projects over the summer as part of a multibillion-dollar debut in the US oil and gas industry.
The sources confirmed reports that Ineos’s new fossil fuel frontier will include a bid for $1.5bn (£1.22bn) worth of oilfields in the Gulf of Mexico, which were put up for sale earlier this year by the US company ExxonMobil.
The company is also hoping to follow the likes of Exxon, Chevron and Shell into the US shale industry, which promises quick returns on low cost oil and gas, the sources said.
A spokesman at Ineos’s Swiss headquarters declined to comment on “rumour and speculation”.
Ineos already imports US shale gas to its Grangemouth refinery in Scotland in the form of ethane, which it breaks down into ethylene to use to make plastics.
The company had hoped to develop its own shale gas projects on British soil to cut the costs of shipping gas across the Atlantic. But its projects in Yorkshire, the east Midlands and Cheshire have been cast in doubt after all three regions rejected its applications.
Ratcliffe has railed against the government’s “unworkable” earthquake rules, which force fracking to stop for 18 hours if the work triggers a tremor which registers higher than 0.5 magnitude.
He accused ministers of “playing politics with the future of the country” by implementing a planning system which is “archaic, glacially slow, inordinately expensive and virtually unworkable”.
He has also said Holyrood’s decision to rule out fracking in Scotland “beggars belief”.
Progress at Ratcliffe’s sites in England have also stalled. Earlier this summer Ineos launched an appeal against Rotherham council after it twice turned down applications to test for shale on a site at Woodsetts, South Yorkshire. Ineos heard last month that the decision will be postponed until 2020.
Ratcliffe vowed in late 2014 to become the UK’s biggest shale player by investing $1bn in developing new shale projects in Scotland and the north of England.
The company promised “substantial further investment” if the projects went on to produce gas, including a 6% cut of its revenues for local communities.
Ratcliffe, a Brexit supporter, moved to the tax haven of Monaco last summer just months after he was knighted by the Queen for services to business and investment.
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