Ineos faces legal challenge over plans for plastics plant in Antwerp

3 months ago 36

British petrochemicals institution Ineos is facing a ineligible situation implicit plans to physique a elephantine plastics works successful Antwerp.

Environmental instrumentality steadfast ClientEarth connected Friday launched an entreaty against Antwerp’s determination to assistance Ineos a licence to physique a chemicals installation to marque ethylene from fracked US shale gas, the Guardian has learned.

Ineos’ billionaire owner, Sir Jim Ratcliffe, announced a €3bn concern successful Antwerp successful January 2019 astatine a signing ceremonial with apical Flemish politicians. “We’ll go stronger successful Europe arsenic a petrochemicals player,” said the businessman, an ardent Brexit supporter, who lives successful tax-free Monaco.

Acting for 13 greenish NGOs, including Greenpeace and WWF, ClientEarth said the task has not met the EU ineligible request of a afloat appraisal of the interaction connected the environment, including greenhouse state emissions and wildlife.

“We already person much plastics than we need,” said ClientEarth lawyer Tatiana Luján. “Beyond the section effects connected quality and wellness [Ineos] task 1 would cause, we cannot disregard that the ground of this task is fossil fuels, and they’ll beryllium utilized to make the gathering blocks of plastics.”

The NGOs accidental the task volition substance the accumulation of single-use plastics, frankincense failing to lucifer the requirements of EU discarded simplification strategies and clime commitments. Antwerp authorities, which granted the licence past December, are besides accused of having failed to see the plant’s beingness greenhouse state emissions, arsenic good arsenic the harm nitrogen contamination would wreak connected section wildlife.

Separately, the Dutch state of Zeeland announced earlier this period it would entreaty Antwerp’s decision, arguing that “no due appraisal has been made” of the interaction of accrued nitrogen connected its quality reserves.

Flanders is already suffering from excess nitrogen, a effect of intensive farming and industry, according to section NGOs. Across the north-western Belgian region, nitrogen emissions person turned purple heather into straw, wide h2o into brownish sludge and accelerated the disappearance of flowers, bees and butterflies.

Ineos says the ethylene “cracker” is the largest petrochemicals concern successful Europe for a procreation and volition make 450 jobs connected tract and up to 2,250 successful different companies. Construction is scheduled to statesman aboriginal this twelvemonth astatine the larboard of Antwerp, wherever the institution has its roots.

Using aggravated vigor and pressure, the installation “cracks” the bonds successful ethane state to make ethylene, which tin past beryllium turned into polyethylene, utilized to marque packaging and integrative bottles.

Ineos disputes the assertion the cracker volition substance single-use plastics, highlighting that ethylene tin besides beryllium utilized to marque h2o and state pipes, healthcare products, lighter cars and blades for upwind turbines.

It besides claims that ethylene buyers could prevention 2m tonnes of c dioxide emissions a twelvemonth by buying from its plant, alternatively than older rivals.

The NGOs are unconvinced. “Maybe this works volition beryllium much c businesslike than different crackers that we have,” Luján said. “But crackers person a lifetime. If you make a caller 1 you fastener successful the extraction of fuels and the accumulation of plastics for different 30 years, erstwhile what we should beryllium doing is scaling down connected our usage and accumulation of petrochemicals for plastics.”

The EU has pledged to signifier retired immoderate single-use plastics, including cutlery, fabric buds, straws and stirrers, but campaigners fearfulness a tide of inexpensive fracked US shale state volition make a caller roar successful plastics.

Others accidental anti-plastics regularisation could mean the manufacture over-expands, leaving taxpayers connected the hook arsenic costly installations are nary longer needed and go stranded assets.

“One of our biggest fears is that we not lone usage Flemish payer wealth to warrant an economical activity, which is specified an ecologically atrocious happening to bash close now, but that we volition beryllium linked to an economical enactment that is not arsenic economically viable arsenic archetypal thought,” said Frank Vanaerschot of FairFin, 1 of the NGOs backing the case.

The Flemish portion enticed Ineos to physique the cracker with a authorities warrant worthy €250m-€500m (£209m-£418m) according to section media, though that was earlier the task was scaled back.

Last twelvemonth Ineos announced it was putting connected clasp plans to nutrient propylene astatine Antwerp, different earthy worldly utilized to marque plastics.

Vanaerschot fears the works creates perverse incentives for Belgium, which is not on way to conscionable its 2030 clime targets. “There volition beryllium a struggle of involvement betwixt having beardown ecological regulations – which we truly request – and the economical interests of this company.”

Ineos has been contacted for comment. When the licence was granted successful December, the institution said it was mounting a caller biology standard: “Our ethane cracker volition person the lowest c footprint successful Europe: 3 times little than the mean European steam cracker and little than fractional of that of the 10% champion performers successful Europe.”