The Ineos Intrepid, the world’s largest multi-gas carrier, yesterday arrived at Rafnes in Norway carrying 27,500m3 of ethane from US shale gas.
It was the first time ethane from US shale gas has been shipped to Europe and is the culmination of a $2 billion (£1.415bn) investment by Ineos.
Ineos intends to eventually use eight of the huge ships to provide a virtual pipeline shipping US shale gas to its two petrochemical sites in Norway and Grangemouth.
It said US shale gas is replacing the reducing gas feed from the North Sea.
Ineos chairman Jim Ratcliffe said: “This is a strategically important day for Ineos and Europe.
“We know that shale gas economics revitalised US manufacturing, and it has the potential to do the same for European manufacturing.
“For the first time ever, Europe can access this essential energy and raw material source.”
The Ineos Intrepid is one of four specially designed Dragon-class ships that will form part of a fleet of eight of the world’s largest ethane-capable carriers.
The words ‘shale gas for progress’ are emblazoned along its 180-metre length.
The project has included the design and long-term charter of all eight Dragon-class ships which will help form a supply chain across the Atlantic.
The ethane will be transported via a 300-mile Mariner East pipeline from the Marcellus shale in Western Pennsylvania to the Marcus Hook deep-water terminal near Philadelphia where it will be shipped to Europe.
At Rafnes in Norway and at Grangemouth Ineos has built the largest ethane gas storage tanks in Europe.
The ethane will be used as a fuel and as a feedstock, and shipments to Grangemouth are expected to start later this year.
Mr Ratcliffe added: “We are nearing the end of a hugely ambitious project that has taken us five years and cost $2bn as we begin supply of ethane from shale to our sites in Europe.
“This is a world first, and I am incredibly proud of everyone involved.”