The UK has taken its first delivery of US shale gas-derived ethane today, at UK-based petrochemical company Ineos' Grangemouth facility in Scotland.

The JS Ineos Insight, a purpose-built vessel carrying 27,500m³ (15,125t) of ethane, loaded from US east coast terminal Marcus Hook on 10 September and docked at Grangemouth earlier today.

Ineos chief executive of trading and shipping David Thompson said the ethane would enable Ineos to run both trains of Grangemouth's Kinneil Gas (KG) cracker at full capacity. One of the trains has been mothballed for eight years because falling North Sea production trimmed ethane arriving at Grangemouth along the Forties Pipeline (FPS).

Grangemouth has been running at around half of its 760,000 t/yr ethylene capacity and losing as much as $100mn/yr, according to Ineos chief executive Jim Ratcliffe. With US ethane imports and the KG cracker at full capacity, Grangemouth should reverse this to make a profit of around $100mn/yr.

"US ethane imports not only gives us security of supply, it also gives us optionality in terms of feedstock and secures the future of Grangemouth," said Thompson.

The newly-started train at the Kinneil cracker will run solely on ethane, while the other train will continue to have flexibility between ethane and LPG.

Ineos has invested around $2bn in the project to import US ethane to Grangemouth and Norway's Rafnes, which received its first cargo earlier this year. This includes a 15-year supply contract made with a range of US shale gas producers, a fleet of eight new 27,500m³ capacity ships, a jetty system at Grangemouth capable of accommodating these vessels and a 60,000m³ (30,000t) storage tank — the largest in Europe.

Ineos is planning to import one 27,500m³ cargo of ethane per week at Grangemouth, although this could rise depending on North Sea supply, said director Tom Crotty. New facilities should be ready by July 2017 to allow ethane to flow through the pipeline linking Grangemouth to the ExxonMobil-Shell 830,000 t/yr Fife ethylene plant at Mossmoran.

Thompson said the imported ethane and vessel fleet would enable Ineos to trade any surplus ethane on a spot basis.