Ineos Group has decided to build two new chemical plants in Antwerp instead of Rotterdam, the other short-listed candidate. The investment by the British-headquartered group is to come on stream in 2023, creating an estimated 500 new jobs
One plant, a gas cracker, will transform ethane gas into ethane and is believed to have a €1.7B price tag. The second plant, a PDH unit, will produce polypropylene from propane gas.
The biggest investment ever made by Ineos includes the first cracker to be built in Europe in 20 years, Sir Jim Ratcliffe, Founder and Chairman of Ineos stated at a press conference in Antwerp on Tuesday 15 January. “Our investment is the largest of its kind in Europe for more than a generation.”
Ineos finally selecting Antwerp does not come as a surprise in Rotterdam, as the chemicals group already has a facility in Antwerp. Furthermore, the two new plants are meant to supply the existing Antwerp plant. This means that Rotterdam port authority (HbR) has had to fight an uphill battle, because it would have taken a 100-kilometre pipeline to connect the two Ineos sites.
“Although this would have meant an investment to the tune of €80M, we were nonetheless able to bridge the gap for a significant part,” the port’s CEO Allard Castelein told worldcargonews online. HbR would have accommodated the Ineos plants in the north-western part of Maasvlakte II. Rotterdam would have stood a better chance if Antwerp had not been able to accommodate the two new plants at one single site, which was a condition made by Ineos.
The new plants will be built in Lillo, on Antwerp’s huge right bank (east bank) Kanaaldok (Canal Dock) where Ineos’s existing installation sits around 1 kilometre south of PSA’s tidal Europa Terminal. The PDH plant will be erected directly adjacent to Ineos’s existing installation, whereas the cracker is to be built about 1 kilometre away.
Ineos already has a major presence in Belgium, employing 2,500 people across nine manufacturing sites and a technology centre. Six of these are in Antwerp.
Nonetheless, as Antwerp began to emerge as the winner, criticism of Dutch climate policy was aired from Rotterdam port and petrochemical industry circles.
The Rotterdam port community Havenvereniging blamed the Dutch policy goal of a 49% carbon emission reduction by 2030, against the EU’s goal of 40%. “As it is unclear how the Dutch 49% is to be realised, it creates an uncertainty among companies that they don’t face in Belgium, LyondellBasell’s Robert Tieman, Havenvereniging’s secretary, told Dutch newspaper Algemeen Dagblad.
Both the Dutch chemical industry’s association VNCI and the major Dutch industry association VNO-NCW endorse the criticism of Holland’s tougher carbon goal, arguing that it chases away prospects for new investments toward Belgium.
Recently, €2B worth of other new investments in the (petro)chemical industry have been landed by Antwerp. They includes Borealis of Austria, with a plastics production plant, Covestro (formerly Bayer), Ineos’s next door Lillo neighbours Inovyn, Kaneka and Nippon Shokubai.