7 November 2019

Project ONE: Province of Antwerp grants environmental permit to INEOS

The Provincial Council of the Province of Antwerp has granted INEOS the permit for the preparatory works for the construction and development of an ethane catalytic cracker and PDH unit. The province has ruled that the application file for the environmental permit meets the legal requirements. This is an important step towards the realization of Project ONE.

Because of the industrial purpose of the area, the greater than required compensation of the forest, and all of the mitigation measures that were included in the approved EIA (Environmental Impact Assessment), the deputy ruled that the permit can be granted. This development is also in line with the Antwerp Port Authority’s vision of expanding the harbour.

Province gives green light to prepare the industrial site for construction

Due to the size and complexity of Project ONE, its realization will take place in several phases over a period of four to five years. In addition to the construction of the two industrial installations, the site must also be equipped with the necessary infrastructure, such as the construction of paved roads and the installation of underground pipes, the construction of steam boilers and an electrical distribution network, a wastewater treatment plant, a fire-fighting installation, the construction of a quay, and so on.

To prepare the site for construction, INEOS must first carry out a number of preparatory works on the grounds. For this purpose, an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) has been submitted. As vegetation has developed on the industrial area over time, the environmental permit for the preparatory works also included a request for the clearing of trees. On the basis of the geotechnical research made possible by the granting of this permit, INEOS can now develop the detailed engineering of the installations.

INEOS has responded to the concerns of various stakeholders, such as the Agency for Nature and Forests (ANB). These responses were included in a clarification of the EIA to the Deputation, in which INEOS also confirmed that the installations will be the most energy-efficient (and therefore the most environmentally-friendly) in Europe.

Cleanest installation in Europe

The planned installations are ground-breaking for the European petrochemical sector, as they will emit substantially less CO2 than the current comparable installations in Europe. For example, as the combustion of hydrogen does not release any CO2, the ethane cracker will use the hydrogen released during the production of ethylene as fuel. In the long run, this innovation will have a market-correcting effect, and the more polluting installations will disappear.

Moreover, these plants will be ‘carbon capture ready’ when a breakthrough in this technology is realized. After all, the design provides space for the construction of a carbon capture installation. INEOS is also a partner in the Antwerp@C project, which is studying the possibilities for carbon capture in the port of Antwerp.

Increased forest compensation

INEOS recognizes the value of the temporary nature that has arisen and is therefore willing to compensate more than it is legally obliged to. Further research by ANB shows that the surface area of the forest that is subject to compensation (trees older than 22 years) was assessed too conservatively in the previous EIA report. This area amounts to 17.5 ha instead of 22 ha. Thus, instead of 44 ha, 35 ha should legally be compensated. As a result, INEOS is compensating for even more than the legal obligation than was initially thought: namely, 20 ha instead of 11 ha.

The total compensation amounts to 55 ha. ANB has recalculated the total forest area to just over 48 ha, so that INEOS will plant 7 ha more forest than will disappear.

Strengthening the competitiveness of the European chemical industry

INEOS points out that this investment represents a revolution for the European chemical sector. The last investments of this magnitude were all made in China, the Middle East or the United States. China has evolved from a follower to a leader, but according to environmental standards that are quite different from those in Europe. So, developing this production site in Antwerp, in accordance with the strict environmental standards that apply here, creates a bridge to a future-oriented chemical sector in Antwerp and Flanders. Project ONE will create 450 jobs in the port, and 3,000 people will be employed during the construction.