12 October 2023

INEOS Olefins Belgium delivers comprehensive appropriate assessment

The assessment is part of the permit application for Project ONE

  • INEOS is submitting a request to amend the permit application for Project ONE, the new ethane cracker at the port of Antwerp, in response to the 20 July 2023 ruling by the Council for Permit Disputes, which annulled the environmental permit previously granted on 7 June 2022.
  • The amendment focuses on supplementing the appropriate assessment for the Flemish and Dutch Natura 2000 sites.
  • INEOS thoroughly addressed the Council’s comments in non-evident circumstances in the absence of reference examples for preparing an appropriate assessment. In doing so, a specific, ecologically sound approach was used, based on scientific insights. With 460 pages, this is by far the most comprehensive appropriate assessment ever for Flanders.
  • By combining best available techniques in the design of its installation, Project ONE will achieve an effective 74% reduction in Nox emissions.
  • The amended appropriate assessment demonstrates that the project depositions will not lead to a meaningful degradation of natural features in the relevant Natura 2000 sites in Flanders and the Netherlands.

Following the ruling of the Council for Permit Disputes of 20 July 2023 on the annulment of the permit decision of 7 June 2022, INEOS Olefins Belgium has submitted a request for modification of the permit application, thus responding to the Council’s comments. Specifically, it concerns an addition to the appropriate assessment for the Flemish and Dutch Natura 2000 sites and an addition to the enhanced nature assessment.

Getting started with Council comments

In its evaluation of the appeal by the Province of North Brabant, the Council for Permit Disputes ruled that the appropriate assessment of INEOS Olefins Belgium failed to demonstrate in sufficient detail that the nitrogen depositions of Project ONE will not have meaningful effects on the Brabantse Wal Special Protection Area.

In its decision, the Council ordered the Flemish Government to take a new decision within six months from the day after the day of notification of the judgment.

Following the ruling, INEOS assessed the nitrogen impact of Project ONE in Flanders and the Netherlands in its modified appropriate assessment according to a concrete, ecological and scientifically based approach. In each case, the specific environmental characteristics, conservation objectives, management measures and pre-existing environmental pressures for the Natura 2000 sites concerned were taken into account.

The degree of detailed analysis was significantly increased compared to the previous version of the appropriate assessment by evaluating individual habitat types as well as all individual species for sensitivity to nitrogen deposition and this for all Special Protection Areas (SPAs) in Flanders and the Netherlands as well as the VEN sites identified in the Environmental Impact Assessment. Project deposition was also evaluated according to the trend in background deposition specific to each habitat and protected area.

With this detailed justification, INEOS Olefins Belgium demonstrates that the nitrogen depositions during the construction and operation phases of the project will not lead to a demonstrable significant impairment of the natural characteristics of the Habitats Directive areas. Nor will they impede the achievement of the conservation objectives for all habitat types and species.

In the appropriate assessment for Flanders, over 50 habitats and more than 65 species were assessed individually. In the Netherlands, more than 35 habitats and species were assessed individually for Special Protection Areas.

Comprehensive appropriate assessment

A team of experienced EIA and biodiversity experts from the engineering and consultancy firms Arcadis Belgium and Arcadis Netherlands worked on this appropriate assessment and enhanced nature assessment.

With a document covering 800 pages for Flanders and the Netherlands combined, INEOS Olefins Belgium delivers the most detailed appropriate assessment to date for an industrial project in Flanders.

This approach relied on thorough modelling and the latest and best available science comparing with conservative trends in nitrogen deposition.

INEOS Olefins Belgium hopes to meet the Council’s comments with this amendment request and awaits the Flemish Region’s decision in confidence.

About Project ONE

Project ONE, ‘renaissance’ of European basic chemistry

Chemical applications that improve our quality of life are now an integral part of everyday life. INEOS has the ambition to meet this need but also to respond to climate objectives.

The ethane cracker that INEOS Olefins Belgium wants to build in the port of Antwerp is the most sustainable of its kind. The facts bear this out: the cracker’s carbon emissions are no less than three times lower than the average cracker in Europe. Compared to the 10% best performers in Europe, Project ONE’s cracker emits less than half. This is because all best available techniques were consistently chosen for this plant, resulting in maximum energy efficiency.

Long before the nitrogen debate flared up, INEOS was already committed to minimising its impact on the environment by using two Best Available Techniques (BAT) in the design of its installations (6 furnaces + 2 steam generators) in each case. These are the application of low Nox burners on the one hand and the implementation of SCR-deNOx installations at the 8 emission points on the other hand. This combination of techniques effectively reduces NOx emissions by 74%.

It has been 25 years since there has been such an investment in Europe. Today more than ever it is important for the position of the petrochemical cluster in Antwerp, one of the main drivers of the Flemish economy, that the sector continues to innovate. Not in the least to remain competitive in a global market. As in the automotive sector where new, more environmentally friendly models are displacing older ones, the same market reflex will happen with the advent of Project ONE, which will make the sector as a whole more sustainable.

With this investment, INEOS Olefins Belgium is also creating 450 direct quality jobs in the local labour market; indirectly, thousands.

Project ONE’s ethane cracker will produce ethylene, one of the most widely used basic chemicals in the world. This chemical building block is used for a variety of applications, including those to enable the energy transition such as wind turbines, solar panels and insulation materials. By producing this ethylene with the lowest possible footprint, INEOS is responding to a growing demand in the market.

The plant is future-proof. The stretch to net zero emissions is shortest for Project ONE because of its starting position, but also because the design has built in the necessary flexibility to exploit the potential of new technologies: for instance, with sufficient availability of low carbon hydrogen, it is possible to run the furnaces and steam boilers 100% on this fuel, reducing emissions to almost zero.