Local court overturns permit for the INEOS Project One Antwerp cracker project

Will Beacham


BARCELONA (ICIS)–A regional court has overturned the permit issued to INEOS for its Project One cracker project at Antwerp in Belgium, calling the future of the project into question.

The project, unveiled in 2019, is the first new cracker to be built in the region for a quarter of a century, with commissioning scheduled for 2026 and full operation by early 2027.

INEOS moved ahead with the project after the province of Antwerp approved a permit for in December 2021, which was reinforced by a separate approval by the Flemish government in June 2022.

However local residents and environmental groups continued a campaign against the project, taking cases to several regional governments in Belgium and the Netherlands.

Today’s ruling annuls the existing permits issued to INEOS.

The decision, issued by Belgium’s Service of the Administrative Courts (DBRC), centres around nitrogen emissions from the project which it claims will damage habitats in a nearby nature reserve. The reserve is protected under the European Habitats Directive.

It rules that the Flemish government did not taken these emissions sufficiently into account when granting the permit.

According to a translation of a statement released by the court: “Because the permit has been cancelled, INEOS Olefins Belgium no longer has permission to carry out the works for the ethane cracker. The Government of Flanders has six months to decide again on the license application.”

“We are obviously disappointed and shocked at the decision” John McNally, CEO of INEOS Project One told ICIS, adding that the company is reviewing the lengthy decision documents before commenting in more depth.

Expected onstream by 2026 before the ruling came down, the project stands to be the first new European cracker in decades, and set to be the lowest-carbon complex in the region.

INEOS announced in February that it had locked down €3.5bn in financing for the project from 21 organisations, including a sizeable portion guaranteed by Gigarant, a vehicle of the Flemish government.

The unit will have a carbon footprint more than three times lower than the average European facility, and less than half of the top 10% lowest-emitting steam crackers in the region, with Europe’s ageing cracker stock making the comparisons of CO2 footprint especially stark.

“The credentials of our project compared to all the assets in Europe are so strong, partly because ours is a world-class, state of the art asset, partially because what we’re comparing ourselves against is 40 years old,” Jason Meers, CFO of Project One, the INEOS arm developing the project.

The company expects to move from low-carbon to zero-carbon after the cracker has come online, with possible routes including hydrogen, carbon capture and electric furnaces.

The company is currently taking legal advice regarding next steps, according to a spokesperson.

“We are now, in consultation with our lawyers, carefully studying the decision in order to understand it and to review our options,” he said.

Additional reporting by Nigel Davis and Tom Brown

Thumbnail picture: Early work on INEOS’ planned cracker complex in Antwerp, Belgium (Source: INEOS)


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