Petrochemical giant Ineos is investing €3bn in the heart of the Belgian industrial port of Antwerp to build a “world-scale” 1.25-million-tonne-a-year ethane cracker with a propane dehydrogenation (PDH) unit producing 750 kilotonnes per annum (ktpa) of propylene.
The “game-changer” investment, announced by Ineos chairman and founder Jim Ratcliffe, is expected to supply to Europe and is one of the UK company’s biggest investments in recent years.
McDermott will supply the technology for the PDH unit, while the company is yet to finalise a technology licensor for its cracker.
The new cracker will be the first to be built in Europe in the past 20 years, with feedstock supplied from imported US shale gas.
“Our investment… is the largest of its kind in Europe for more than a generation and is an important development for the European petrochemical industry,” said Ratcliffe in a press conference on 15 Jan.
Calling for a "competitive" environment in Europe, Ratcliffe said the investment by Ineos would have significant impact on the region's chemicals industry, which he said has "fallen behind enormously" compared to the US and Chinese industries.
"Energy is an issue for Europe and Europe hasn't exactly faced up to that... If we were not bringing shale gas from the US, we would not be able to justify the economics of this project," he said.
To support the project in Antwerp, Ratcliffe said Ineos will be further investing in its import of shale gas from the US via its transatlantic vessels.
The new complex will be collocated with Ineos’ existing sites in Lillo, Antwerp, and will be connected by pipeline to a number of Ineos ethylene and propylene derivatives units in central and northern Europe.
The plants are expected to take 4-5 years to build and scheduled for operation by 2024.
According to Ineos, the site, which will offer cutting edge and 'most environment-friendly' technologies, will provide a “competitive and sustainable” cost base for the company.
“We believe this will significantly strengthen the whole of the ethylene and propylene derivative chains within Ineos and allows us to continue to support the growth and development of our customers for years to come,” said Rob Ingram, CEO Ineos Olefins & Polymers Europe North.
The company currently employs 2,500 in Belgium, across 9 manufacturing sites and one technology centre. The company has six plants in Antwerp, which claims to be Europe's biggest petrochemical zone.
“The selection of Antwerp as a location for these new assets is a significant step forward for the development of this project,” said John McNally, CEO of the project.
Ineos announced plans to build the world-scale project last July, with the location having been narrowed down to port of Antwerp and the Dutch port of Rotterdam.
“This decision builds upon our long-standing relationship with the Port of Antwerp, the City of Antwerp, and the governments of Flanders and Belgium,” McNally said.