INEOS, one of the largest chemical concerns in the world, has chosen the port of Antwerp as the location for a mega-investment of 3 billion euros representing 400 new jobs. The capital outlay is the largest in the European chemical industry in the past two decades. With the securing of this large-scale investment project Flanders confirms its position as a leading chemical region, while the port of Antwerp further reinforces its role as the largest chemical cluster in Europe.
Largest investment in the European chemical industry in 20 years
Earlier this year INEOS announced that it planned a large-scale investment for further expansion of its chemical production facilities. Various European locations were considered, but ultimately the British chemical group opted for Antwerp.
INEOS plans to build a brand-new propane dehydrogenisation (PDH) plant and an ethane cracker unit in Antwerp. These will respectively convert propane into propylene and ethylene as the raw materials for chemical products that find their way into many industries including car manufacturing, building construction, clothing, cosmetics and personal grooming products, pharmaceuticals, electronics and packaging materials.
The plants will be built on the existing INEOS site in Lillo in the port area and on neighbouring grounds. For this purpose INEOS will take over unused parts of concessions held by neighbouring companies, thus ensuring maximum integration with the existing chemical industry. In this way the new plants will be connected by pipeline to various INEOS ethylene and propylene derivative units elsewhere in Europe.
It normally takes four or five years to complete a project of this magnitude, and the new production plants are expected to be operational by 2024. Once the plants are up and running they will provide 400 full-time jobs directly and five times that number indirectly. Some 3,000 people will be employed during the construction phase.
INEOS CEO and chairman Jim Ratcliffe explained: “Our investment in a world-class ethane cracker and PDH plant is the largest of its kind in Europe in more than a generation. As such it is a major development for the European petrochemical industry. We believe that this investment can reverse the decline in the European chemical industry in recent years.”
Hans Casier, CEO of INEOS Phenol and chairman of essenscia (chemical and life sciences industry federation): “The fact that Antwerp has been chosen as the location for this investment is a big new boost to the international competitive position of the existing chemical cluster. This is a great success not only for the chemical industry in the port, but also for the economy of Flanders, Belgium and indeed the whole of Europe.”
Chemicals increasingly play key role in Flemish industry
Frank Beckx, managing director of essenscia Flanders: “After Borealis similarly opted for Antwerp a few months ago, this decision by INEOS puts the chemical sector in Flanders even more firmly on the world map. In particular the construction of a hyper-modern cracking plant based on the very latest technology is of great strategic importance, as not since the 1990s has such an installation been built in western Europe. A cracker produces the essential simple molecules that form the basis of the entire chemical industry. And by creating at least 400 new jobs the project will be a significant boost to employment in this sector. This is undoubtedly the most important economic news in a long time. Such an investment – which in turn will probably attract others of its kind – further strengthens the position of the chemical industry as the key sector of the Flemish economy. This is a massive vote of confidence, inspiring us to maintain our collaboration with government in building up a strong competitive position internationally for this world-leading chemical cluster.”
Attraction of the port of Antwerp
Jacques Vandermeiren, CEO of Antwerp Port Authority: “It is naturally very good news that INEOS has selected our port for this major new investment. It once more demonstrates that we as the largest integrated chemical cluster in Europe are very attractive to international investors. Furthermore, propylene and ethylene are the starting points for many other processes, so production of these basic components will further strengthen our raw materials position in the chemical industry and indeed many other industries in our country. This mega-investment brings the total amount of new capital expenditure that we have attracted to Antwerp over the past year to more than 5 billion euros. This will undoubtedly help to secure the presence of industry here in Antwerp, and will make an essential contribution towards creating a sustainable future for our port and for the Belgian economy.”
Bart De Wever, Mayor of the City of Antwerp: “Today, we have the opportunity to announce the largest investment in the European chemical industry in 20 years. I have to admit that I am overcome by pride and humility. These are the moments you live and work for. Antwerp is thriving. A statement I will repeat again and again because we really have to stop doom-and-gloom scenarios once and for all. We can have every confidence in the future. The economic climate is healthy. Antwerp is open for business. This is an investment for an entire generation. It also demonstrates that even in times of Brexit uncertainty, investors still maintain belief in the process of economic growth, internationalisation and sustainable technology. There remains trust in progress.”
Welcome Team for Chemical Sector scores successes
The “Welcome Team for the Chemical Sector” was set up earlier this year by Flanders Investment & Trade (FIT) and essenscia Flanders (chemical industry association). This initiative brings together a team of experts offering intensive support to foreign chemical companies, helping them with investment projects and highlighting the advantages for the chemical industry in Flanders in terms of innovation, tax policy and investment support, among others. With some 300 investment projects since 2010 the chemicals and life sciences sector represents around half of all foreign investment in Flanders.
Minister-President Geert Bourgeois: “This is particularly good news, an exceptional event: the largest investment in Flanders in the past 20 years. The project is also a good illustration of long-term collaboration between various ministries and government departments, the industry associations, the port etc., all with a shared objective and coordinated by my agency, Flanders Investment & Trade.”
Claire Tillekaerts, managing director of Flanders Investment & Trade (FIT): “An investment of 3 billion euros in the port of Antwerp by INEOS is particularly good news not just for the Flemish economy, it also underlines the efficient collaboration between government, the business world, centres of knowledge and Antwerp Port Authority that enables our region to attract such large investments. The Welcome Team for the Chemical Sector – which is coordinated by FIT – offers the necessary expertise for finding the ideal location, selecting the right local partners, etc. To give this investment a kick-start in Flanders various government departments were intensively involved. All those who participated in this project reacted very promptly and professionally to queries from INEOS, providing in-depth responses. The package of tailor-made services that was specially put together managed to brilliantly convince the British chemical company and landed the investment despite intense competition.”