Updated: Ineos wants to clear Belgian forest to make way for plastics plant

A new battle may be brewing over London-based chemicals company Ineos’ plan to build a new plastic plant in Antwerp, Belgium.

Left-leaning news outlet Quartz reports that a provincial government in Belgium has granted the company a permit to chop down a 119-acre forest to make room for the plant, which will convert ethane shipped from shale fields in Pennsylvania into ethylene. The project has been in the crosshairs of environmental activists, who question the wisdom of building a factory that will contribute to making more plastic products in a country that is a signatory to the Paris Agreement. Now, Ineos has tree lovers to reckon with, as well.

Quartz reports that a local activist group formed to oppose the construction of the Ineos plant, Antwerp Shale Free, intends to file an appeal to oppose the decision.

Ineos responded to PlasticsToday noting that the land on which it will build its state-of-the-art ethane cracker and PDH unit is part of the Port of Antwerp industrial zone. "It has always been destined for industrial use," said Group Communications Manager Richard Longden in an e-mail. "The nature grew over time on the unused land and will not disappear but will be moved elsewhere to an area where nature is permanent and protected."

The company is currently working with two independent environmental organizations to reforest more than 119 acres of land in the Antwerp area to extend permanent forest that will be protected away from the industrial zone. "For every tree that needs to be removed, we will plant a new one and we will overcompensate even by adding another seven hectares of trees, which corresponds to 14 football fields," added Longden.

Ineos will then prepare the existing industrial space to build two facilities to produce ethylene and propylene for the supply of existing production in Belgium, Longden went on to say. "Local production of ethylene and propylene will displace previously imported raw materials into Antwerp to supply a similar volume to the same units as before. The difference is that the new cracker and PDH plant will have around half of the carbon footprint of the units that currently produce these products. A lot of thought has gone into this investment in respect of its environmental contribution," stressed Longden.

At the start of this year, Ineos announced that it plans to invest €3 billion in a gas cracker and propane dehydrogenation (PDH) unit in Antwerp. It is reportedly the largest investment in the European chemicals sector in 20 years and is described by Ineos as “game changer” for the Belgian economy.

Ineos is the owner of Ineos Styrolution, the global leader in styrenics technology.

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