28 February 2011 17:02 [Source: ICB]
Hans Casier, CEO of INEOS Oxide, speaks about its new terminal and why it will change the ethylene landscape in Europe
INEOS's announcement last July that it would build its own ethylene terminal in Belgium sparked much industry interest and speculation.
Although INEOS is the largest producer of ethylene in Europe, with sites in Grangemouth, UK; Rafnes, Norway; Cologne, Germany; and Lavera, France, producing about 3m tonnes/year, the Switzerland-based producer is also Europe's biggest buyer.
"The majority of our consumption is in Amsterdam-Rotterdam-Antwerp (ARA) where we do not own production directly," says INEOS Oxide CEO Hans Casier.
INEOS consumes about 4m tonnes of ethylene/year, resulting in the need to buy around 1m tonnes every year to feed its downstream plants.
The 50,000m3 (1.77m ft3) terminal being built at Zwijndrecht will have an annual throughput of 1m tonnes, and will connect directly to INEOS's facilities in the Antwerp-Rotterdam area and into Europe via the ARG (Aethylen-Rohrleitungs-Gesellschaft) ethylene pipeline linking Antwerp to Cologne and the Ruhr industrial area in Germany.
The Zwijndrecht site was chosen after several reviews of neighboring locations. INEOS owns three plants in the Antwerp harbor area where Zwijndrecht is the prime site, as well as being INEOS's origin some 12 years ago.
Casier says that Zwijndrecht was selected because land was available. It is very well positioned in the heart of the chemical cluster as well as in terms of links to its other sites in Belgium, and is close to the ARG. In addition, the site has proven its capability in the past to handle large projects successfully.
Pipelines are being added to link the terminal to INEOS's site in Lillo, Belgium, on the right bank of the Scheldt river, where it produces polyethylene (PE), and also to its site in Feluy in central Belgium, where it produces oligomers.
INEOS is managing the project in-house and has appointed several contractors. Construction started last October, and the project is scheduled to go into operation by the fourth quarter of 2012.
Casier says that the investment is a strategic one for INEOS as a whole, giving the group complete flexibility, and indeed autonomy, on purchasing and storing the key petrochemical feedstock.
He declined to reveal the total investment cost of the project, but says it is "a substantial sum."
The company ships ethylene to third-party terminals that are not always available, says Casier. He explains that this is because most storage in Europe is linked directly to cracker operations and, as a result, is sometimes unavailable in times of shutdown, or simply when tanks are full.
"The INEOS terminal will be the first ethylene storage in Europe not directly linked to a cracker operation. Therefore, there will be a lot of flexibility that other terminals do not have," Casier says.
He is adamant that it will not change INEOS's buying behavior, but stresses that INEOS will be able to control the flow when buying deep-sea volumes.
The site's jetty will be extended and modified for the new terminal to enable it to handle the largest deep-sea vessels of 25,000 deadweight tonnes, making it more cost effective for INEOS.
The tank's large size also opens up potential use by other sources, Casier reveals. He says: "We have received a number of inquiries from interested parties along the ARG. We will service our own needs first, but, as it goes into service, this will create opportunities that we will evaluate."
There is no doubt that the advent of the new terminal will be a game changer, not only for INEOS, but also for Europe.
Casier is keen to stress that it will create opportunities for other parties, but many are watching to see what impact it will have on the future of some of Europe's petrochemical assets.
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