Queries About Ineos’ new Antwerp Investment

  • Queries About Ineos’ new Antwerp Investment (c) IneosQueries About Ineos’ new Antwerp Investment (c) Ineos

UK environmental campaigners have long had their eyes on Ineos, in part because of the Swiss-based group’s aggressive fracking campaign but also because of what they say is its insufficient attention to anti-pollution infrastructure at some of its facilities, in particular at Grangemouth in Scotland.

Now the chemical producer is facing scrutiny from a Belgian transparency watchdog over the environmental impact of its plans for a new €3 billion ethane cracker and propane dehydrogenation (PDH) unit, scheduled to start up in the port of Antwerp in 2024.

The Belgian complex is being billed by local authorities as “the largest investment in Flanders in the past 20 years.” It is also Ineos’ largest capital investment to date. In announcing the project, founder and chairman Jim Ratcliffe said the facility would create 400 jobs and  “reverse years of decline in the European chemicals sector."

Backed by campaigners, the appeals body of the Flemish government for public administration is seeking more information about the complex’s approach to environmental protection but also answers to questions about how the choice for Antwerp was made. The port of Rotterdam had also bid for the project.

The Flemish watchdog is now deliberating which documents the chemical group and the port authority may be asked to provide.  Up to now, environmentalist advocates claim they have unsuccessfully sought details about how the investment would meet Belgium’s climate change commitments and its ambitions to cut waste.

A report by UK newspaper The Guardian said the port and the Flanders Investment & Trade agency, which promoted the location, both turned down a request by Rob Buurman, director of the Flanders Recycling Network, which campaigns to reduce plastic waste, to release documents about the project.

Flemish NGO Bond Beter Leefmilieu, dedicated to improving quality of life, has said it also has “many concerns” about the Ineos plans and is “curious to know what the government has promised the company to invest there.

We hope no disproportionate advantages have been promised.” 

Bond Beter Leefmilieu wants Ineos to show how its plants would ensure zero carbon emissions and complete recycling of raw materials by 2050, in view of Belgium meeting its pledge on the Paris climate change agreement. “The longer we don’t act, the bigger the risk will be that there won’t be the necessary [green] investments and the CO2 crisis will get worse and worse,” the organization said.

The Antwerp port authority said it had already shared “a large number of documents” relating to Ineos’s investment but it might not be possible to release others because of commercial interests related to continuing negotiations.

“We have taken note of the decision of the appeal body of the Flemish government for public administration regarding the Ineos file and we are currently analyzing it,” the authority told local media. The deadline for a response is May 9. 

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