Industry

Ineos suspends key part of Antwerp chemical facility

Ineos has postponed a controversial scheme to build Europe’s biggest propylene factory in the Port of Antwerp.

Occupation of Ineos Project One land at Antwerp Port, 3 October 2020. Photo: Ineos will fall

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.”

23 replies »

  1. I am sure Ineos will understand you are not their market, Deborah. However, those that do make up their market will be pleased they are to progress. After all, what’s not to like about a nice, new, better and cleaner facility rather than some of the old, more polluting plants, that currently exist?

    (See previous correspondence on that subject from Sir Jim to the EU.)

    • Fascinating how rank hypocrisy betrays itself isnt it?

      I wonder who wrote this?

      “And the world’s richest man, who has just been stopped (temporary) from trashing a German forest, in order to become richer still? Oh yes, Mr. Musk!

      And Cash for Ash!?”

      A German forest?….A Belgian forest?…..Mr. Musk?…..Mr. Ratcliff?……Just rearrange the locations and the names, and what do we see?

      A forest is a forest, no matter where, or by whom it is “trashed”.

      Ooops!

      Oh! Dear!

      • But, I suspect that is no concern to the anti antis, as their message has to ignore the collateral damage to make it work. A bit contrary to the higher morals that are preached, but that’s what you get with dogma.

  2. One can but wonder at what point the polluter starts to pay? How much damage must there be to the whole ecosystem (which includes humans) before the problem is properly addressed? Why are certain humans allowed to produce vast quantities of plastic that has no realistic means of being dealt with? Why do govts not stop the production of such plastics as long as, or until, realistic alternatives exist? When will the cause, rather than the symptoms by addressed, i.e. production rather than recycling? When will the real costs of plastic pollution be factored into production and profits? Are there any answers, other than ‘there are hefty profits to be made’, irrespective of the damage?

    • I think you’ve done us a great service and hit the nail on the head, Mike, with your final point: that is indeed the only answer to the questions which so many ignore in their obfuscations. Why do we continue to pollute when we know what it’s doing? You can’t answer this question with a blasé – UKOG should help Turkey produce indigenous oil as this is better than imported oil, and if you don’t agree you’re an ‘anti’ who doesn’t care that locally produced is good – (an argument recently levelled at me despite my protestations that I agree that, generally, local is better and contributes to the common good. Who doesn’t?) Or answers such as – you’re a hypocrite if you argue in favour of ‘keep it in the ground’ while continuing to use oil and its products like plastics, or gas to heat your house. Irrelevant answers which ignore the reality which is that fossil fuels will eradicate life on this planet unless we stop immediately and transition, forcing a rapid transition by virtue of the reducing quantity of the fossil fuels already in production.
      Your questions are the real questions and need real answers. We do not need contributions which point only, I repeat only, to the difficulties in achieving zero carbon whilst neglecting to accept that we have got to get there – and fast. Such an approach results in our failing to grasp the nettle because we are lulled into ignoring your real questions while arguing about externalities which of course need attention while the main goal is single-mindedly pursued.
      Your own answer to the final question you ask is illustrative of the problem behind the predicament in which we find ourselves. We have surrendered to the corporate agenda which seeks to consolidate power in an undemocratic minority. We elect government after government which aids and abets this process behind a supposedly ‘democratic’ screen. Neither corporation nor government care a jot about local jobs, local decisions, except as a means to the end of power. If perchance others benefit en route than that is all to the good and contributes to the goal of power.
      The problem is that we are victims (and perpetrators) of the sixth major extinction accepted by most scientists as scientifically undeniable. If we accept this, then ‘keep it in the ground’ makes the only sense. We can waste no more time.

      • “Unless we stop immediately and transition”!!

        Trouble is, 1720, if someone reads your posts, within your output is the shot in the foot. I must admit, you are consistent with it, so it is always expected.

        Please do tell me, how convincing you will be to Turkey to give up their desire to be more self sufficient in oil and gas? Please tell me how the history around the Middle East with countries wanting control of their neighbours oil and gas has gone, and why would it be any different going forward?

        I am certain countries, like Turkey, will also develop some alternative energy inputs. They will also have an increasing population who wish to have more stuff, just like billions of others around the world.

        You haven’t stopped and transitioned immediately, and countries certainly will not. And, that would be a bad thing if they did, because of the following:

        Currently, whilst there are some good things to see within the alternative sector, it is a small slice of the pie and that small slice contains a disproportionate amount of poor ingredients. It may work better to get the ingredients improved in order to gain a larger slice, instead of pontificating that the bigger slice is not good for others, whilst you also munch away, otherwise you will find a limit to those who feast upon the smaller slice, spit it out, but are convinced to come back for more. The old adage of “fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me” is already being applied by quite a number of people regarding alternatives-and 1 disappointed customer usually leads to at least 10 lost future sales. The democratic majority then can easily turn around and scupper enforcement, as was seen in Australia. So, by all means, chose that route, but you may find the same outcome.

        • Oh dear!
          Fossil fuels drive mass extinction. Take this on board, Martin: it’s horrifying!

          Viable solution, if simplistic and necessitating compromise and immense effort: – manage on what we are at present mining. Leave untapped reserves in the ground. Divest from fossil fuel development, and, supported by government, dIvert immediately to renewable research and development those corporate entities seeking fresh fossil fuel resources, thus destroying our planet. Support those who as a result of the transition of attention to renewables are in fuel and energy poverty.

          Or do you have another solution to the problem? It might help us to know whether you accept the proposition in my first sentence, that this problem exists and that its causes are anthropogenic.

          The fact that the Turks just like the British and everyone else are going to have to adapt to a new way of thinking is painfully obvious. That this is not an easy proposition is equally painfully obvious. But either you throw your hands up in despair and cry “it cannot be done”, or, you try and do something about the problems, if you can be persuaded that they exist. Whilst recent history will support your sad conclusions about the selfishness of human nature and the likely outcome of such an attempt, you might be persuaded to look further back in history for evidence of cooperation amongst human beings in the great search for survival. We are assured that all we lack to succeed is the will.

          With respect to your final paragraph, what has this got to do with anything? I must confess my inadequacy in working out what on earth you are getting at. Forgive me, it’s late. Wake up.

          • “Leave untapped reserves in the ground”.

            This is just the same sort of nonsense that is used in some comedy sketches, eg.

            “When the moon rises over the cow shed the grumble bird will be seen”. Humorous, in that context, but meaningless in others.

            Please explain how Turkey, that imports the vast bulk of it’s oil currently, will do that by continuing to import. Which it will, to a greater or lesser extent. Those countries supplying that market will continue to drill new wells to supply, as others become depleted.

            Just taking a phrase and trying to make it a mantra, when it does not work out in reality, is simply nonsense.

            So, can you explain why new wells drilled in Libya, or other countries, to supply Turkey would be better for anybody-other than the exporting countries? I can think of many reasons against that based upon history, and that includes too many body bags.

            Over population also drives mass extinction, 1720. So, I do agree something needs to be done, about both areas. But, it is like those in USA saying something needs to be done about Trump, and claiming the Constitution allows for that. Then the Constitutional experts say it does not and reminds that assassination does, to suggest that is not a good road. So, the something needs to be done is a dangerous path and should be limited to what is acceptable and realistic. Dogma is not that good at making that happen.

            And, you were the one who was declaring you were anti HS2, now you say you are against fossil fuel! Well, if you drive along the motorways of the UK that run north to south, then the something needs to be done regarding the environment, would be HS2, rather than more motorways! So, the something may not fit your own requirements, and will certainly not fit everyone’s requirements, but I am happy for something to be done-but my something. I believe HS2 is a good something, if kept to reasonable costings, based upon my use of the TGV in France. But, I do not look at the costing of a railway as a single total, but a cost over at least a century, with an income figure on the other side of the equation over the same period. So, the same something then looks very different to me than to someone who plonks in a costing, like they would a jigsaw piece from a different jigsaw, to try and complete the picture. Most residents of Newbury said something should be done, and when it was, they were very pleased-including myself. A few said that something should not be done, but when it was done, the reasons they had put forward were shown to be incorrect. The same can be said about many who thought the something included leasing their roofs to solar power companies, and then found they could not sell their houses.

            That’s life. You chose your something and get the rewards, or the opposite. But, certainly not always the rewards.

    • It would be extremely easy for the UK to ensure that any plastics that are used and disposed of do not end up in our oceans etc; they can be recycled or incinerated. I spend around 6 months a year travelling in developing countries and it seems pretty obvious that’s where the problem lies; there is very little attempt made at recycling and most plastics are just dumped and many end up in rivers and then the oceans. I don’t see this as being a problem of the manufactures – it’s very much down to personal behaviour and government policy. But I guess it’s easy for you to blame industry as you know you have little chance of making changes to the real causes of the plastic pollution.

  3. There are means of dealing with waste plastic, Mike.

    If you are not utilizing those means, shame on you.

    Maybe there are not means available to you? In which case, then you need to campaign for that. You could use your plastic keyboard to do so. However, I suspect you might encounter some Nimbys who do not want those means, and will campaign against!

    Strange, that plastic is so unique, compared to something like sewage, where it is perfectly normal to pay for waste to be processed into products with value. (At least, in the UK.) I certainly pay for my plastic to be processed, and my bodily waste also. None ends up in the sea. Again, I would suspect that local expansion of either facilities, would be campaigned against, although I do note there is now some excavation of landfill to remove plastic and process because it is economic to do so..

    Meanwhile, the wind turbine blades that end their lives in landfill, may be more of an issue-unless that is ignored. It has been.

    You might also ask why do governments not stop the production of cobalt as long as, or until, realistic alternatives exist-unless that is ignored. It has been.

    But, if you ask all the questions, then the answers show the alternatives have the same issues. Unless, you only ask some of the questions and then the alternatives seem not to. Or, some give nonsense answers to questions, in the hope they are believed.

    All that can be hoped for, is that someone making decisions is asking all the questions, and producing the correct answers, as otherwise there will be constant repeats of failed and flawed alternatives, which will set back any progress that could have been made.

    (Just to let you know, my fruit was packed in paper bags today! Those forests are under a lot of pressure. But, my paper bags will shortly produce electricity for me, or become new paper bags, so, as long as those facilities are used, they will end up polluting no-one. My road is littered daily from those who wish not to do the same, and then the litter pickers gather that up to enable the same.)

    My paint (fossil fuel derived), just arrived, so, I have to thank the chemicals industry, and move on. Terrible, but someone will have made a profit (oops) in the supply chain. Part may end up paying for Covid vaccinations, great. Questions and answers.

    • Ha! Ha!

      Plastics…..Hmmm….

      Oh Dear! Oh Dear! Oh Dear!

      https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/habitats/plastic-pollution/

      “Strange, that plastic is so unique, compared to something like sewage”

      I couldnt have put it better myself.

      Unfortunately, that is the nub of the problem with plastics isnt it? Sewage bio degrades, plastic doesnt. No one knows how long plastics will remain. Hundreds of years? Thousands of years?

      Microplastics now pollute the highest mountains, even found in the upper atmosphere. Microplastics are found in the deepest ocean trenches in the oceanc mud. In aquatic animals, stomachs and blocked breathing holes so full of plastic, they cannot eat or breathe and die of starvation or drowning.

      Microplastics are found in the very food we eat. And in every animal on land.

      In the placenta of babies.

      Polyester masks and plastic bags and containers are choking the oceans and the landfill of every contry. Half the plasic pollution on the planet comes from the last 15 years of plastic production!

      Forget about population expansion, that doubles about every 68-78 years.

      What is the real problem here?

      Looking at the figures, with 8.3 billion tons of plastic, estimated, in the world today. And every 15 years an increase of half again and so on every 15 years. Just counting the increase of half the original figure alone with no intrinsic increase in production of plastics.

      So 8.3 billion tons of plastic in the world in 2017. +4.15 billion tons (+0.5) in 2032 = 12.45 billion tons. In 2047 + 4.15 billion tons = 16.6 billion tons. In 2062 + 4.15 billion tons. In 2075 + 4.15 billion tons = 20.75 billion tons. In 2090 + 4.5 billion tons. = 25.25 billion tons.

      = 3.0 times present plastic production and plastic waste pollution. Conservative estimate. Slightly larger than the percieved population increase. Not counting any increase in production such as the Ineos plant, Europe’s biggest propylene factory in the Port of Antwerp or any other production facility. And any others of course. Conservative estimate only.

      Already countless sea life and land life is being choked and killed by plastic bags, plastic containers and supposedy “sanitary waste” products such as surgical masks are choking beaches, waste tips and the oceans.

      “But, if you ask all the questions, then the answers show the alternatives have the same issues. Unless, you only ask some of the questions and then the alternatives seem not to. Or, some give nonsense answers to questions, in the hope they are believed.”

      Clearly has not even begun to ask all the correct questions, let alone provide answers. Why is that? Another question…Where is the source material? References and substantiation is required for that question too. There are question that need to be answered arent there? Let alone answered.

      “There are means of dealing with waste plastic”……What are they pray tell?

      “If you are not utilizing those means, shame on you.” There is that mirrored reflection of the “contributor” again.

      Shall we wait with baited breath? What do you think?

      Like I said with fossil fuels, simply using less plastic, or simply disposing of plastics, “utilising those means”. That does not stop more and more and more of the stuff being made from fossil fuels funnily enough. (well, not that funny. Not funny at all). Havent we been here before?

      The only sane solution, is to stop making single use plastics and move onto less pervasive ecologically sourced and short lived plastics, until we can ween ourselves off them for once and for all.

      https://science.howstuffworks.com/environmental/green-tech/sustainable/5-plastic-substitutes.htm

      And then there is this little gem:-

      “In the hope they are believed”…..

      Hmmm, self knowledge is a wonderful thing….isnt it?

      And yet, in spite of trumpeting out the benefits of plastic as such a wonderful thing? And further trumpeting the Ineos controversial scheme to build Europe’s biggest propylene factory in the Port of Antwerp.

      The “contributor” claims to use paper bags as some sort of paper badge of honour?

      Isnt there that word we see so often on Drill or Drop? Begins with “H” Hypo…something or other? Oh yes, “Hypocrisy.” Such a nice woody word, used in the right context of course.

      Had to be said didnt it.

      • “References and substantiation is required for that question too. There are question that need to be answered arent there? Let alone answered.”

        Should be:- References and substantiation is required for that question too. There are question that need to be “asked” arent there? Let alone answered.

        Could that be changed please?

        Thanks

      • Plastics remaining for 100’s or 100’s of years seems a good thing to me if they are buried properly. Degradation of plastics creates CO2 and I thought that’s something you greenies didn’t like.

    • How strange, Kenneth.

      I thought there was a referendum and the majority of those who voted (UK VOTERS), wanted to leave the EU? Indeed, I seem to remember the UK government that held the referendum was not supportive of leaving the EU.

      Maybe your understanding of history is different? That I could understand, as some tried to suggest it was not “people” who voted in the referendum and there should be a second one for “people” to do so!

      Maybe somewhere on the Net, there is a reference to the vote being thrown and people not taking part?

  4. The problems with plastic highlighted on this board are caused by irresponsible people, who also deal with metal, glass and other materials in a similar matter.

    Plastic manufacturers in Europe have promised to make 60% of all plastic recyclable or reuseable by 2030, with the goal of 100% by 2040. It must however be noted that some European manufacturers including Ineos have already reached the 100% target.

    Until 2040 there will remain two methods available for dealing with plastic to responsible people in the UK, disposal for recycling and for those types that cannot be recycled, disposal for incineration to produce energy.

    The government has also recently announced its Resources and Waste Strategy, which will overhaul England’s waste system, putting a legal onus on those responsible for producing damaging waste to take greater responsibility and foot the bill. This will not only apply to plastics but also other items that can be harder or costly to recycle including cars, electrical goods, and batteries.

    • The problem is that there are already vast amounts of plastic in dumps and landfill and floating the the oceans that no one wants to take responsibility for. I don’t believe it was originally irresponsible people, though the throw away culture has always been a mainstay of thoughtless. Rather more its that of irresponsible, or poorly informed governments, institutions and the deliberate illegal dumping of companies who are supposed to be responsible for disposal. But in fact those fly waste by night companies just dump it as soon as they get out to sea beyond sight of the land. Typically the human race produces these technological miracles, but fails to take into account how it will be disposed or broken down.

      It has always been the get out of jail free strategy to blame the consumer, just as in fossil fuels as in plastics, for the problem, not the manufacturer and the seller. The better strategy would be to put a premium on the manufacturer and the seller to production and distribution of plastics. But as usual, as illustrated in that last paragraph, that its the consumer who must pay through the masked nose, not the manufacturer or the seller. But of course expensive plastic products would be very unpopular and certainly less profitable for the manufacturer. The upside of treating plastics from the point of source with a heavy treatment premium, would be less plastic products at the very least.

      Also people who use plastic products were never informed until recently, of the hundreds or thousands of years life of plastics once their single use has ceased. plastic was treated like any other waste product and i don’t recall any government or manufacturer holding up their hand and declaring the emergency? No that came from ordinary people who saw there land and their beaches and the oceans drowned in plastic products. Sea life and animal life with their stomachs packed with plastics and starved to death. The gills of sea creatures tagged in plastic bags. Whales washed up on beaches which, when they were cut open, found to have their intestines completely full of plastics.

      Did the cry of emergency come from governments and plastic manufacturers? No. The only source of pressure and hence the recent far too late intentions, came from ordinary people demanding change. now governments sit back on their laurels and say how wonderful they are for finally doing something about it, though little more than fine words and promises yet to be acted upon.

      I see no effort whatsoever to collect and dispose, presumably in an incinerator, of any of what plastic exists now. What emerges from the incinerator? Waste gasses and the final ash product. How toxic will they be?

      There are different types of plastic as well, some can be recycled, others cannot be recycled, look at the instructions on your waste bin. What do we do with the micro plastics that now have become part of the very physical constituents of living animals? How do corporations like Ineos intend to deal with those, and how on earth can Ineos claim to dispose of 100% of all plastic waste produced by them??

      Will we have Ineos emergency plastic tracker teams turning up to sort through the waste plastic everywhere on the earth, and presumably only take the plastic from Ineos own production plant and leave all the rest from other manufacturers in the landfill or in the oceans? Just how will that work?

      And just what is recycle able? To make more plastic products? And who will be responsible for disposing of that in this brave new recycle world?

      This is interesting too:-

      “Until 2040 there will remain two methods available for dealing with plastic to responsible people in the UK, disposal for recycling and for those types that cannot be recycled, disposal for incineration to produce energy.

      The government has also recently announced its Resources and Waste Strategy, which will overhaul England’s waste system, putting a legal onus on those responsible for producing damaging waste to take greater responsibility and foot the bill. This will not only apply to plastics but also other items that can be harder or costly to recycle including cars, electrical goods, and batteries.”

      2030, 2040? Nothing now up front then? In other words, this is not a tax on the producer at all is it? No its a tax on the consumer for daring to buy something that the manufacturer produces for easy profit.

      Just like fossil fuels, disposal and any other treatment of plastics, existing now and in the future, should be charged direct to the manufacturer and any disposal method be very closely monitored.

      However, judging from the existing regulation bodies of oil and gas exploration and production, any direct intervention is highly unlikely.

  5. I’m not sure how you could place financial penalties on any manufacturer that would not end up being passed on to the consumer, especially manufacturers that operate outside our shoreline.

    Would the penalties apply to just the manufacture of the raw plastic materials or would it also include industries such as those involved in wind turbine manufacture that add other materials to the raw plastic materials, which then makes the final product non recyclable?

    Just as a matter of interest, the wind industry is expected to have produced 43 million tonnes of non recyclable waste by 2050 according to the University of Cambridge.

    The Resource and Waste strategy requires set percentages of recyclable materials to be used.

    • As I have explained previously some time ago John. I have no favourites to blindly support and defend. I do however note that the energy provision situation worldwide is moving away from the old fossil fuel monopolies towards less harmful solutions of renewable energy solutions. That has been mainly driven by millions of people worldwide demanding that climate change be fully addressed by governments and corporations and no longer just spout vague promises and jam tomorrow evasions.

      Are the very recent moves towards renewable solutions free from problems regarding pollution and disposal of components when they have reached the end of their useful life? No, of course not. Its still early days yet. The intention is certainly in the right direction. Targets are much vaunted, but little actually done in the real world.

      The methods of these recently percieved renewable systems though, are still trapped in the older less recycle able methods of production that is all that is presently available. Much of that though is due to the petrochemical industry having bought out, censoring and killing off any potential revolutionary methods of energy production.

      So attempts at making entirely renewable energy production and use methods are inevitably mired in the old non renewable components and methods. If all the financial incentives were put on investigating renewable resources production and use, however, it will not be long before non polluting renewable systems, components, operations, production and use become discovered and put to use.

      Yes there is a similar problem with wind turbine blades being difficult to dispose of and recycle and ending up in decaying waste tips.

      But to highlight only those operational problems does not absolve the responsibility of the petro chemical operators. Just as there are many other industry operations that have similar problems. Not just petrochemical non renewable, or so called renewable operations where items such as wind turbine blades and solar panels have the same problem, but also most other heavy industry operations.

      That is a classic argument that if a problem is pointed out in one field of operations, then the answer, as we see here, is for the accused to point out a similar problem in the others operations. That all though technically relevant, does not offer any solution, nor is it intended to do so. Essentially it is a knee jerk response to reduce the embarrassment of the accused and is intended to divert attention away from the problem entirely into a reciprocal emotive polarisation of issues.

      The incentive of putting a premium on fossil fuel products such as plastics, including wind turbine blades at the source of production, will put manufacturers into the mind set of finding less expensive renewable solutions to the problems and hence reduce the premium cost. Higher consequential prices to the consumer will do the same thing. Its supply and demand at the end of the day to coin a well used phrase.

      So, what that will achieve, will be a far higher incentive for such things as The Resource and Waste strategy which requires set percentages of recyclable materials to be used at a far higher rate of incentive for change, rather than just accepting the present status quo wouldn’t it.

      The end result must be to transform the actions of the human race away from those old recidivist imeratives and towards a world where we live as closely as we can alongside and within nature. And no longer to the planet as merely an exploitable resource for exploitation and profit.

      The profit that should be sought, is that we preserve and enhance our natual evironment and every living creature in it. Anything less is suicide.

  6. The FT reports that
    Oxford university has received £100m from Ineos to set up an antibiotics research institute to counter the growing threat from deadly superbugs.

    A very worthwhile donation which does not however absolve INEOS from its shared responsibility for planet-wide extinction. One would like to attribute this to pure altruism but it’s difficult when the
    polluter continues to pollute.

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