28 July 2023

Project ONE: we persevere!

“Grit” is ingrained in the DNA of INEOS.

It stands for perseverance and combativeness. Not giving up, even when the going gets tough. Also known in cycling as ‘grinta’.

For almost five years, INEOS has been working to obtain a permit in Flanders for Project One, an ethane cracker that will fundamentally renew the petrochemicals cluster in Antwerp with an environmental footprint less than half that of the best similar plant today . The cracker will produce ethylene, one of the most widely used basic chemicals for countless and indispensable applications that each of us, without thinking about it, uses. By anchoring production of basic raw materials locally, we also increase the chances of next steps in the value chain being retained here with high-quality manufacturing jobs.

Project ONE is the only greenfield investment of its kind and largest investment in European chemistry in 25 years. A ‘future-proof’ plant too, capable of becoming climate-neutral by running 100% on low-carbon hydrogen as soon as it is available. A project that brings fundamental innovation to the chemical cluster in Antwerp, the economic engine of Flanders. Such plants are now being realised elsewhere in the world. In the United States alone, 20 Project ONEs have been recently built.

Last Thursday’s annulment of the permit by the Council of Licensing Disputes therefore hit like a bomb. In the first place to all employees involved in this in Flanders. But also worldwide, where thousands of people are working to realise our project. Our engineers, scientists and operators are proud to be able to work on such a pioneering installation on our own soil, a plant they can build from scratch without having to emigrate abroad. And where they and future generations can work. By extension, it is also a jolt to all the suppliers and contractors involved in our project who are proud to help bring this to fruition. Last week, we studied the Council’s ruling in detail and mapped out possible next steps with our stakeholders. The Flemish and Federal Governments continue to support the project and have assured us of their deep commitment to help look for solutions. This gives us the resolve to move forward with the project while we rectify the permit issues.

Last week’s huge disillusionment has given way to relief and determination as the project recovers from this setback. The application for PROJECT ONE was prepared for 2 years by recognised Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and safety experts, by experienced engineers and architects. The permit is more than 1,000 pages long. It received favourable opinions from all competent advisory bodies, including Team EIA and the Department of Nature and BOS. The application includes numerous studies to demonstrate that every best available technology is applied. Notwithstanding all this study work, we will take the Council’s comments to heart and react accordingly.

It is imperative that the nitrogen space now occupied by existing more polluting plants be freed up for new plants that apply best technologies and can present much better figures. Just to make it even more tangible what the nitrogen deposition of Project ONE in the Brabantse Wal nature reserve represents. The maximum is 0.12 kg of nitrogen per hectare per year against a background of 33 kg per hectare on an annual basis from other sources. 0.12 kg of nitrogen. That’s the equivalent of 3 BBQs. The signal seems to have arrived that there is acute need for more legal certainty in Flanders and Belgium a region that is already struggling to compete with other parts of the world where the cost advantage for energy and labour is much greater. A first positive step was taken this week with a view to speeding up approval of the nitrogen decree through parliamentary channels. We do not expect preferential treatment, but we do expect clear conditions to be met.

We are going at it again with ‘grinta’ and ‘grit’.