Ineos buys licence for shale gas exploration in Stirlingshire
Grangemouth plant owner Ineos has bought a majority share in a licence for shale gas exploration and development in Scotland.
The petrochemical company's licence covers 329 square kilometres of the Midland Valley around its Stirlingshire site.
The British Geological Survey has estimated there are "modest" shale gas and oil resources in the area.
Grangemouth is being developed to import shale gas ethane from the US.
Vast amounts of the gas have been extracted in the US using the controversial process of fracking.
The announcement came as campaigners staged protests around the country for a day of action against developing fracking in the UK.
Gary Haywood, chief executive of Ineos Upstream, the company's new oil and gas exploration and production business, said: "This is a logical next step for Ineos and we are very excited about it.
"With our large asset base, existing operational capabilities and exemplary safety and environmental record, we are well placed to become a major player in the UK onshore gas production sector."
He added: "Over the last year Ineos Upstream has been drawing together a team of experts in the sector, including a number of leading shale exploration and development specialists from the US.
"This expertise gives us the perfect platform to move into onshore exploration."