Ineos has postponed a controversial scheme to build Europe’s biggest propylene factory in the Port of Antwerp.
The company confirmed today it had suspended the start of the propylene dehydrogenation (PDH) unit, a key part of its €3bn Project One scheme.
European environmental organisations, including UK anti-fracking groups, have opposed Project One because it planned to use shale gas to manufacture the ingredients of plastic. They argued that the Port of Antwerp, next to a nature protection area, already suffered from plastic pellet pollution.
In November 2020, lawyers for ClientEarth and 13 other organisations successfully secured an emergency injunction to prevent the clearance of woodland for Project One. This was pending the outcome of a court case about the environment impacts of the scheme.
Work on the PDH unit, which would turn propane into polymer-grade propylene, had been due to begin at the same time as the other main facility, an ethane cracker.
Ineos told Independent Commodity Intelligence Services today that the ethane cracker, which makes ethylene, would now be built first. A spokesperson said the company was responding to market demand for ethylene, used in plastics, resins and adhesives. The spokesperson said:
“There is a growing need for ethylene and it makes more sense for us to build the cracker first and then the PDH unit.”
Work on the Project One site had been due to begin in mid-2021, with construction scheduled for later in the year and completion in 2025.
Groups opposing Project One said their lawyers would continue the legal fight against the complex. They said the environmental impacts of the ethane cracker should be examined by the courts.
ClientEarth lawyer, Tatiana Lujan, said today:
“Antwerp has been suffering a major plastic pollution problem and adding further production capacity to Ineos’s existing facilities was only going to intensify it, as well as making it exponentially harder to meet climate targets.
“The news of the suspension of this unit is a relief for anyone concerned about the plastics and climate crises, but it’s also overdue. The sheer breadth of the environmental implications of this project mean that it should have been a no-go from the planning stages.”