A bright future for Ineos appears to be back on track, just one year after the firm threatened to close its Grangemouth plant for good.
The company’s survival plan, put into action at this time last year, is on course and construction has begun on an ambitious £400 million project to import and store US shale gas on site.
Ineos managing director John McNally said it was now moving into the premier league of petrochemical plants.
He added: “It is one of the most exciting moments in the site’s history. In 2016, we will be the first company in the UK to use US shale gas ethane and we will go from loss making to profit making overnight with all that means for jobs and investment in Scotland.”
However, the company does not deny that, since last year’s shutdown crisis, scores of workers have been leaving the site to work elsewhere.
This has concerned Falkirk East MP Michael Connarty, who said reduced staffing numbers could lead to more incidents like the butane gas leak last month.
Mr Connarty said: “The workforce has gone down from 1400 to 800; that is 600 quality staff members who have left.
“Ineos shut down plants this year it was supposed to shut down in 2015 because it had a serious shortage of staff to operate them.
“When it said its saftey record had improved it was talking about lost time at work incidents; the reportable incidents have actually increased and health and safety has been alerted to that. I think there is a serious problem at the site.”
While union Unite welcomed the investment made in the plant and the apparent secure future, it too had fears over the staffing situation and safety issues.
An Ineos spokesman said: “Safety is very important to us. Across the whole site, the safety performance has vastly improved and has exceeded last year’s performance. Recorded injuries are down two thirds on what they were this time last year.”
Standard shutdowns of plants for maintenance can be some of the most dangerous times but the company said it had coped well.
“This year we have undertaken three major maintenance works, one in the refinery and two in the chemical works and have seen a vast number of additional workers on site.”
While staffing is something the firm is looking at, the spokesman added: “We have got the members of staff we need to run the site and have no problems recruiting more. We are not understaffed.”