Ineos Seeks aid to Locate VAM Plant in UK

26.06.2018 -

Ineos has asked the British government to provide financial aid for its planned new 300,000 t/y vinyl acetate monomer (VAM) plant if it wants to “tilt the scales” toward locating the new facility at the group’s UK complex in Hull, England. With Britain outside the EU, the chemical producer has been widely expected to build the plant at its Antwerp, Belgium, site.

According to the London-based newspaper Financial Times (FT), Ineos is now talking to the UK’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy about a deal as manufacturing companies seek reassurance over investing in Britain. Some of them have already warned that they could pull investment due to frustrations over the protracted Brexit negotiations.

Headquartered in Switzerland since 2010, when it failed to renegotiate loans with British banks at the height of the financial crisis, and the-then Labour government declined to postpone a tax payment, Ineos is now once again the UK’s largest privately owned company, having relocated its shale gas and vinyls businesses to London at the end of 2016.

 In April, the olefins and polyolefins giant said it had signed a memorandum of understanding with an unnamed commercial partner and had begun front end engineering and design (FEED) studies for the VAM plant and together with the partner would decide on a location sometime this year.

“Any help would tilt the scales in favor of Hull,” the FT quotes Ineos group director Tom Crotty as saying, without quantifying how much aid management was seeking or thought it could reasonably expect.  The government “is actively involved and interested” in the Ineos proposal, the newspaper quotes Crotty as saying, while noting  that the chemical producer has separately asked the government to support the production of the new sports utility vehicle it plans to build in the UK.

Crotty reportedly has also suggested that Ineos could build a 1 million t/y ethylene cracker in northern Europe at an investment of $2 -$3 billion, presumably using price advantaged shale gas-derived feedstock. It currently supplies imported US ethane feedstock to the ExxonMobil/Shell cracker at Mosmorran, Scotland, as well as to other production facilities at Hull and Runcorn in England.