CAMPAIGNERS have warned of the potential environmental damage caused by fracking as Grangemouth plant owner Ineos is today expected to unveil Europe’s largest ethane storage tank.

Details are due to be released this afternoon of the £125 million structure which was granted planning permission last year.

Over the next 15 years the tank is expected to store ethane gas, which is extracted through the controversial fracking process in the USA and imported into Scotland.

Ethane gas is used at the Grangemouth plant to manufacture petrochemicals and plastics.

Last night, Friends of the Earth highlighted pollution caused by fracking in the US and the danger of blighting communities this side of the Atlantic if it was to go ahead in Scotland.

Dr Richard Dixon, director of Friends of the Earth Scotland, said: “We strongly suspect Ineos’ plans for fracking in Scotland would result in blighted communities, with planning permissions sitting unused for years.

“The last thing anyone wants is to have a site next to their home where fracking may happen at some unspecified time in the future. Communities could have to wait until nearly 2030 to find out if they are going to be fracked or not.

“This threat of blight is another good reason for the Scottish Government to decide that fracking has no place in Scotland.”

He added: “We oppose fracking here in Scotland and wherever else it is proposed. The US experience shows the enormous damage to local environments and to public health that is part and parcel of this industry ... Fracking is a dirty, dangerous industry which is unwelcome in Scotland or anywhere.”

Last year, Ineos chairman Jim Ratcliffe said the tank would be “without doubt one of the most important infrastructure projects of recent times in Scotland” and would benefit the whole of the UK. In March, the firm launched a series of public meetings around towns and villages in central Scotland with the promise of a £2.5 billion giveaway to communities prepared to drop their opposition to the process.

The company has acquired more than 700 square miles of hydraulic fracturing or fracking exploration licences in central Scotland and wants to begin work extracting shale gas – the raw material from which ethane is derived. There has been widespread opposition to the controversial technique which involves pumping water, sand and chemicals into rocks at high pressure to extract the gas from the rock.

People fear the process may contaminate the water supply, damage the environment and cause widespread disruption. Earlier this year the Scottish Government imposed a moratorium on fracking until more research was carried out into its health and safety aspects.