INEOS has awarded Técnicas Reunidas a contract to engineer a world-scale ethylene plant in Belgium, marking the largest investment in European chemicals in the last 20 years.
Spain’s Técnicas Reunidas says that the €3bn–4bn (US$3.16bn–4.2bn) capital investment will see the 1.5m t/y project start up in Antwerp in 2026. The engineering firm says the contract, which has been awarded for the project management, engineering, procurement and construction management, and supervision services, will create work for 450 staff in Madrid including process engineers and chemical engineers, among other specialties.
In December, Ineos said its design for the project will include an ethane cracker with the lowest carbon footprint in Europe, at three times lower than the average European steam cracker and less than half that of the 10% best performers in Europe. The chemicals major said the facility will make use of best available technologies and its design will be flexible enough to integrate other technologies as they mature – including CCS, the use of hydrogen fuel as it becomes available, and electrification of cracking furnaces. It said it wants the cracker to become climate-neutral within 10 years of startup.
The viability of the project has been called into question by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis. It said in a briefing note that the investment appears to be at odds with EU policy to curb single-use plastics, which the ethylene will be used to produce; that the demand for plastics is expected to weaken and return to a state of over-supply following the economic surge of recovery that followed the pandemic; and it assumes the continued availability of inexpensive ethane from the US.
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