For the past decade, the United States has pursued a failed experiment in natural gas extraction known as hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. Fracking injects large volumes of water, sand and chemicals deep underground, at extreme pressure, to create fractures in targeted rock formations to release the oil and gas. The fossil fuel industry touts fracking as a revolutionary technology that could deliver huge volumes of cheap, clean energy.
But the fracking boom has been an environmental catastrophe in the United States. The fracked gas and oil industry has polluted the water supplies of heavily drilled communities, produced massive volumes of toxic waste, caused earthquakes and imperiled vital aquifers from poorly constructed gas wells; meanwhile, oil and gas operations have become the second greatest global source of the potent greenhouse gas methane, threatening the climate and the planet.
The private and secretive chemical company Ineos has been leading the charge to bring this environmentally destructive method to the United Kingdom (UK) and mainland Europe. The petrochemical conglomerate was rapidly assembled by its founder, James (Jim) Ratcliffe, who has amassed a fortune during Ineos’ rise to become one of the world’s largest petrochemical companies.
Now, Ratcliffe intends to use the same corporate strategy to push into oil and gas extraction. Already, Ineos has a foothold in the UK oil and gas sector. Ineos is keeping fossil fuels alive by doubling down on dirty manufacturing and fracking, and not the clean renewable energy future that the UK and the world needs.
Ineos kept a low profile during its rapid ascent, and it continued to do so even as the company became the biggest player in the UK fracking industry. Few people know about the Ineos corporate history, shaky enviro record and relentless pursuit of profits. In 2010, the Financial Times reported that Ineos has been “a near-impenetrable business that, in spite of its size, divulged few details of its operations”.
The fracking “revolution” that Ineos promotes is a return to the past, where corporate executives profited off of environmentally destructive extraction and generation of dirty energy.