There is finally certainty for Ineos’ Project One in the port of Antwerp, Belgium.
In July 2023, the new ethane cracker, which is supposed to have the lowest carbon footprint of all European crackers, had its permits revoked by the Flemish Council for Permit Disputes. The nongovernmental organization ClientEarth, acting with 13 other NGOs, filed a suit contesting the permit granted to Ineos, stating that Project One failed to meet the legal requirements and should not go ahead.
Separately, the authorities of Zeeland and North Brabant in the Netherlands also decided to take legal action, arguing that the permit for Project One had been issued without an appropriate environmental impact assessment. An assessment had been made, but this did not meet the definition of "appropriate" in its consideration of the impact of the nitrogen emissions from the cracker on the nature reserves in the ports of Flanders and the Netherlands.
Ineos appealed the decision in October 2023. On Jan. 7, 2024, Flemish minister for Justice and Enforcement, Environment, Energy and Tourism Zuhal Demir granted an environmental license to Project One.
"This decision finally brings clarity to all Ineos Olefins Belgium employees and subcontractors involved and gives hope to other companies in Flanders with similar projects,” Ineos said in a statement.
In its appeal process, Ineos "thoroughly addressed the Council’s comments in non-evident circumstances’, following a ‘concrete, ecological and scientific approach," it said. Ineos added it delivered an environmental assessment of "no less than 800 pages."
According to Ineos, Project One would be climate-neutral within 10 years of the cracker's start-up, The initial operation target of 2026 in unlikely to be met in light of recent permitting delays. The plant is set to have a capacity of 1.45 million tonnes a year.
“We thank Minister Demir for her decision,” said John McNally, CEO of Ineos Project One. “The pandemic and the energy crisis have demonstrated Europe’s vulnerability in terms of industrial building blocks. Strategic autonomy is therefore central to the European Commission’s vision. Project One is at the beginning of this value chain. It anchors the local processing of essential building blocks, such as ethylene, thus contributing to the resilience and sustainability of Europe’s industrial foundations. With the realisztion of Project One, Flanders and the port of Antwerp can play a role in making European industry more sustainable,” he concluded.