FAQ

The INEOS WILL FALL campaign is a coalition of climate and environmental organizations and a social movement working to stop the construction of Ineos Project One in the port of Antwerp.We are not affiliated with any political party or other organizations.

INEOS Project One cannot be built. A new plastic factory, with polluting shale gas from the United States as a raw material and with massive CO2 emissions, only impedes the transition  to a climate-neutral and circular society, and therefore does not belong in the port of Antwerp.

The INEOS WILL FALL campaign wants to make it clear to the policymakers involved that it has become unacceptable to attract investment projects from the fossil industry to the port of Antwerp, and moreover to subsidize them with tax money from Flemish citizens.

We also campaign for a clear and ambitious strategy to carry through a smooth transition to a climate-neutral and circular industry in Flanders. Policy makers must take into account both our future and that of our children, but also the health of the local communities where raw materials are extracted.

Local and regional policy makers often forget that climate justice and social justice are interrelated! Responsibility for the environment does not stop at the boundaries of the area where they conduct their policies. The disastrous consequences of eg. fracking to shale gas has a serious impact on the global climate crisis, and therefore also – even if this happens across the ocean – on the future living environment of Flemish citizens!

For the organizations within the INEOS WILL FALL campaign, INEOS Project One is a symbol case. By attracting such investments, the port will remain committed to the dying fossil industry for decades, while the future lies elsewhere.

We do not want this project to be pursued,  we have a number of social, economic and environmental reasons  to support this :

INEOS ‘Project One’ will impose a burden on Flanders with additional CO2 emissions of 0.8 to 1.5 million tonnes per year and will increase the annual emissions of the Port of Antwerp by 8.3%. This is also the equivalent of the annual emissions of 150,000 Belgians, whereas the emissions have to be drastically reduced.

  • Ineos will use ethane and propane -by products from shale gas-  as raw materials for the production of plastics.
  • Up to 40% of the ethylene produced in the ethane cracker will be used for the production of waste plastics, i.e. single use plastic, while the use of that plastic will be restricted in the near future.
  • Carelessness and negligence on the part of industry cause billions of “plastic pellets” which end up in our rivers and oceans (up to 230,000 tons per year!). Sea creatures and birds mistake them for food, and the plastic builds up in their digestive system, causing them to starve to death with a full stomach.
  • Methane leaks and methane emissions during the extraction, transport and burning of shale gas are not covered by the European ETS regulation. Extraction takes place outside the European Union and emissions from international shipping are not included in the climate impact. The CO2 emissions caused by flaring also do not count in the ETS trade. But methane is 86 times more powerful as a greenhouse gas than CO2! Per unit of useful energy, shale gas even contributes 2.5 times more to global warming than coal.
  • INEOS ‘investments are part of a survival strategy of trying to save an uncertain business model by bringing millions of tons of plastic into the market place at low prices. This is only possible through the use of very cheap shale gas from the US.
  • Due to the pressure on prices that the increase in plastic production will cause, the profitability of plastic recycling is being reduced.In doing so, INEOS is slowing down the transition to a circular economy.
  • Despite the adverse environmental effects, the project is heavily subsidized.Government bodies such as Participatiemaatschappij Vlaanderen and Flanders Investment & Trade play a dubious role in this.For example, they guarantee at least 250 million to even half a billion euros for the bank loans that INEOS must take on for this project.
  • Despite the enormous investment and subsidy, “Project One” creates only 400 climate-insecure jobs, mostly for high-tech profiles. A similar investment in circular projects would generate more local jobs, with more sustainable security for the future.
  • In spite of enormous investments Project One only creates 400  high profile tech jobs  in an uncertain climate.A similar investment would produce more local jobs and more certainty and sustainability in the future.

We want to inform the population and the media about what is happening in the port concerning the INEOS project. In doing so, we want to increase awareness of and knowledge about this problem and thus encourage public opinion to critically question current policy.

Through solidarity campaigns with dock workers and trade unions, we help advocate for safe, secure and sustainable jobs in a socially just context.

Through an extensive range of actions, we want to form a united front of concerned citizens, activists and dock workers that works towards a smooth transition to a dynamic, circular and climate-neutral port of the future. Actions of civil disobedience seem to us to be necessary in order to challenge this unacceptable situation. The full action consensus can be found here: https://ineoswillfall.com/actieconsensus/

INEOS WILL FALL is an open, pluralistic and independent campaign entirely  based on contributions from volunteers, including  the digital crowdfunding system Open Collective : https://opencollective.com/ineos-will-fall.

Actions are also supported by participating organisations. To secure our autonomous  actions within the campaign we won’t tolerate misuse or appropriation by policy makers.

Shale gas is a fossil fuel that is stored in shale rock and is extracted by the controversial fracking technique. Shale gas itself consists largely of methane (on average around 90%), which is extracted for heating and electricity generation. The other components are gases such as ethane and butane, the so-called ‘liquid’ gases’.

Ethane used to be seen as a waste product from shale gas extraction. It was a gas that could not be consumed until it was discovered that under high temperatures in crackers you could make ethylene from it, and then plastic granules. For example, the plastic industry became the driver of shale gas extraction and the oil companies boosted plastic production. In most cases they invest together in new installations.

It is difficult to mine the gas because it is trapped at a great depth, like tiny gas bubbles in hardened clay or shale. In contrast to the “conventional” (natural) gas that we all know, shale gas is therefore not trapped in a gas bubble surrounded by an impenetrable layer of rock, but in the rock itself, at a depth of 3000 to 5000 meters.The fact that the gas is trapped in the rock makes it much more difficult to mine it.

This extraction is carried out by crushing the shale layers. This is done by means of the highly controversial technique called “fracking”, an abbreviation of the term “hydraulic fracturing”. This consists of injecting sand, water and chemicals into the rock under very high pressure via horizontal bore holes in the rock layer. This causes the shale to splinter and the gas can be released. During the first phase, the gas that comes up is “flared”, ie burned in the open air, resulting in increased methane emissions. Fracking is very controversial because of its negative impact and risks to the environment.

During operation, the gas is brought to the surface and then further distributed via pipelines. A well only remains active for a relatively limited period of time; only a few years after the first drilling, the outflow of gas slows down. For that reason, wells have to be drilled over and over again.

The chemicals are intended to optimize fracking and gas flow. The composition of the chemicals helps determine the effectiveness of the fracking and is therefore often a trade secret. It is still unclear what will happen to these chemicals in the long term. There is already evidence that these substances can migrate underground.

A decade of fracking in the US reveals the disastrous effects of shale gas extraction. The consequences for the living environment of people, fauna and flora are disastrous. Among other things, the technology causes instability and subsidence of the subsoil, resulting in light, but easily palpable earthquakes that cause considerable damage to infrastructure and buildings.

More details and source references can be found on the Antwerp website  “Antwerp Shale gas free “

https://www.schaliegasvrij.be/het-verhaal/schaliegas-fracking.html

Worldwide, 50-65% of total methane emissions come from human activities. Methane is emitted from energy, industry, agriculture and waste management activities. A number of natural processes in the soil and chemical reactions in the atmosphere help to remove methane (or CH4) from the atmosphere again, but are absolutely insufficient to compensate for the rising emissions.

In 2017, methane was responsible for about 10.2% of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions from human activities. Oil and gas activities have become the second largest source of the powerful greenhouse gas. Methane is released through leaks in sub-optimally constructed gas wells or during ‘flaring’ (if there is an oversupply of gas production, the drilling companies burn the gas immediately when it comes out of the well).

The lifetime of methane in the atmosphere is shorter than that of carbon dioxide (CO2). But methane is much more efficient in capturing heat radiation than CO2. Over a period of 20 years, methane is considered to be 86 times more dangerous for global warming than CO2; over a period of 100 years as more than 25 times more dangerous. So it is a particularly big threat to the climate and the planet. That is why the European Commission stated in October 2020, in the context of  the EU Green Deal launch, that imports of fossil energy are a major source of methane emissions, and can therefore be regarded as one of the main causes of climate change

Ethane was indeed once only a waste product of shale gas extraction. It was a gas with which nothing could be done, until it was discovered that under high temperatures in crackers you can make ethylene from it, and with that also plastic granules.

For example, the plastic industry has become the driver of shale gas extraction, while the oil companies are simultaneously driving plastic production. In most cases they invest together in new installations, in a very harmful pact, 

So we classify this statement as a typical form of greenwashing. The plastics industry does stimulate the further extraction of shale gas.

Ethylene and propylene are the most commonly used raw materials in the plastics production chain. INEOS claims that its raw materials will also and mainly be used for making eg. windmill blades, solar panels or other sustainable products. But figures published by the plastics sector itself (2019 annual report of sector federation Plastics Europe) show a gloomy picture. 40% of the demand for these basic raw materials is still used for the production of disposable plastics and packaging material.

No, not directly. The planned ethane cracker will produce ethylene. That ethylene is then used as a raw material in other INEOS factories in the port of Antwerp. In those installations, ethylene is bound to, among other things, polyethylene, which produces long plastic strands that are then cut into granules. The plastic granules or droppings leave a trail of contamination everywhere they are produced and shipped.

We list below which money flows towards Ineos.

1. In addition to financial and fiscal support measures, INEOS has also been granted exceptions or exemptions in the field of compliance with environmental regulations, energy policy agreements signed or increased compensation rates agreed for eg. CO2 emissions. See the recent study by GP, Bond Beter Leefmilieu and Arbeid en Milieu:

https://www.bondbeterleefmilieu.be/artikel/exxonmobil-total-basf-borealis-ineos-en-arcelormittal-industrie-krijgt-miljarden-steun-maar

2. On 4 July 2018, Frank Beckx, CEO of the chemical federation Essenscia Flanders, gave more details on KanaalZ about “the best possible package” that Flanders Investment & Trade, the chemical federation and other involved players, through a ‘Welcome Team Chemistry ‘want to offer:

2. Op 4 juli 2018 gaf Frank Beckx, CEO van de chemiefederatie Essenscia Vlaanderen, op KanaalZ meer details over “het zo goed mogelijk pakket” dat Flanders Investment & Trade, de chemiefederatie en andere betrokken spelers, via een voor het eerst opgestart ‘Welkom Team Chemie’ willen aanbieden:

https://kanaalz.knack.be/nieuws/ineos-overweegt-miljardeninvestering-in-antwerpen/video-normal-1169773.html

3. The City of Antwerp and the Flemish Government have lured INEOS to Antwerp by offering 16 million euros in Flemish subsidies (including ecology support!). They also provide up to half a billion euros of Flemish financial guarantee for the bank financing of INEOS Project One through Participatiemaatschappij Vlaanderen.

INEOS has a high debt ratio; its loans are followed with suspicion by the rating agencies, partly because of the less favorable prospects of the sector. This means that INEOS may have difficulties in obtaining sufficient financing from the banks for this project. In order to eliminate this problem, the Participatiemaatschappij Vlaanderen guarantees a significant portion of the amount. This means that if the INEOS project is not profitable and INEOS cannot repay the bank debts, the Flemish Government will step in. The Flemish Government is thus in check: because it guarantees the profitability of a large installation for the production of plastic, it cannot simultaneously strive for a lower use of plastic.

As a result of the project, 49.03 ha of forest will disappear, of which 20.64 ha is older than 22 years. Taking into account a compensation factor of 2 for forest older than 22 years, a forest compensation of 41.28 ha is necessary for this. However, the compensation promised by INEOS is fragmented into small parcels spread across Flanders, as there is insufficient space available for reforestation in the Province of Antwerp alone.

According to the amended project EIA of July 2020 with the amended permit application for deforestation, the legally required forest compensation now takes place for

• 3.09% on the territory of the province of Antwerp
• 48.08% on the territory of the province of East Flanders
• 5.2% on the territory of the province of West Flanders
• 43.63% on the territory of the province of Limburg 

The voluntary, additional forest compensation that INEOS is so keen to use is done according to the same document for:

• 11.9% on the territory of the province of Antwerp
• 19.8% on the territory of the province of East Flanders
• 21.3% on the territory of the province of West Flanders
• 47.00% on the territory of the province of Limburg

Despite the promise of Zuhal Demir to reforest Flanders, this usually turns out to be small shredded pieces with little or no ecological value. Moreover, plans are being made throughout Flanders under this government to cut down areas of forest without taking into account the consequences for climate and biodiversity. That is why, after an in-depth study, the Court of Audit made firewood of the current Flemish forest compensation policy as a substandard justification for further destruction and industrialization or asphalting of valuable nature.

Deforestation is in principle prohibited in wood-poor Flanders, but the Flemish government does permit deforestation in a number of cases. However, for most of those permissible deforestations, the deforestator must provide compensation. The compensation can be done by planting a forest elsewhere (the so-called forest compensation in kind on private land or land belonging to third parties) or by paying a financial contribution of € 1.98 / m² into the Forest Compensation Fund (the so-called financial forest compensation ). The study mentioned above shows, among other things, that only a small percentage of the income from financial forest compensation is actually used for reforestation.

In a report on KanaalZ dd. February 11, 2020 CEO Ineos Project One says John McNally, “We’re already the biggest manufacturer of these chemicals in Europe, but we’re also the biggest consumer. So right now we’re buying these chemicals from others. What we wanna do is actually to fill in our supply chain by making them ourselves. ” and also “you’ve also got a pipeline complex that will move these gasses that we’re gonna make to our other units in Europe”

https://kanaalz.knack.be/nieuws/fit-beloont-ineos-voor-antwerps-project/video-normal-1563951.html 

These and numerous other reports from INEOS make it clear that the company wants to ensure the supply of raw materials for its production facilities in Europe by producing them  at a central location in Europe. In addition, INEOS is looking for a place where the necessary infrastructure for the transportation of raw materials and finished products is already in place. Only two locations met the conditions for INEOS: Antwerp and Rotterdam, with Antwerp being preferred. So building Project One elsewhere outside of Europe makes no sense for INEOS at all.

The ETS is a system for trading emission rights within the European union. Under the system companies have to hold allowances corresponding to their CO2 emissions but according to the principle “the polluter pays” in case they emit more greenhouse gas. If this occurs a company has to buy more emission rights , but  it can also trade these permits. Trading takes place in a virtual market where the supply and demand determine the price.

ETS is a ‘Cap & Trade system’: the allowed CO2 emissions amount per year determines how many emission rights are available. The allowed emissions are being reduced annually, consequently the price of emission rights rises and  certain polluting industries are no longer profitable and have to close down. (f.e. coal fired power plants)

It is important to keep in mind that the ETS system is independent of the emission targets that a region sets for its population. If Antwerp talks about halving the CO2 emission on its city level, then companies covered by the ETS system are not included. 

But what does this have to do with INEOS? INEOS is a chemical company, and theoretically falls under the ETS system. In practice, chemical companies receive free allowances.. The explanation given is that otherwise they are no longer globally competitive. But the result is that emissions from the Flemish chemical sector have not decreased for a long time.The chemical industry repeatedly produces contradictory data , but these concern emissions per unit produced.If that production continues to increase, as it does, the total emissions will remain the same.Ultimately, it is the total emission, for which the sector does not pay, that has an effect on the climate.

This is what Ineos tells us to believe, a typical example of ‘greenwashing’ or presenting things ‘greener’ than they are.  Indeed, this installation will be the most efficient of its kind in Europe and since crackers have been built in Europe for decades, obviously the existing ones are older and less efficient.But that does not mean at all that this installation is clean; it still emits large amounts of CO2, and will continue to do so for decades.

Is there any other way? Could INEOS or another company build an even more CO2-friendly factory? We think so. Much better installations are already in operation on other business parks (even in the port of Antwerp) and new state of the art installations  will start in the next two years.

In addition, BASF is working on an all-electric cracker, so that no CO2 will be emitted during production. Soon this new technology will be a fact and the INEOS installation becomes totally obsolete. But because a large amount of money was invested in it, that outdated installation would continue to emit CO2 for years to come.

A second element is the use of polluting shale gas as a raw material, no matter how efficient the installation. But because the pollution happens during the extraction, and therefore outside this installation, INEOS does not include it in its  ‘innovative’ story. 

Indeed. INEOS must also present a plan on how they will halve emissions and eventually bring them to zero. In doing so, they put their hopes on the CCS (Carbon Capture and Storage) technology, the idea of capturing, liquefying the CO2, and then pumping it into an unused oil or gas field, for example, deep in the ground, via a pipeline.

There are a lot of remarks to be made here. Firstly, it is a technology that has not yet been tried on this scale. We don’t know if it’s possible. That makes the whole project look like taking off on a plane and promising that you will make the landing gear along the way.

Moreover, this technology requires an expensive infrastructure (pipelines, pumping installations, etc.) that are not included in the business model, and the costs of which will have to be borne by the authorities. From sheer necessity … because the plane’s already up in the air. 

But – the main argument – capturing CO2 makes the production process in the cracker considerably more expensive, perhaps up to 30%. That’s a cost that more modern, hydrogen-powered and renewable energy-powered crackers won’t have. Here too, the INEOS cracker is in danger of being a lost cause in advance. 

We do need it.  However, in order to combat the plastic pollution all around us, we must focus on chemical recycling and limiting single-use plastic. The mass production of new plastic does not fit the picture of a sustainable and circular economy. 

There are two global evolutions going on that contradict each other. On the one hand, there is the monster alliance between the oil industry and the chemical industry to divert some of the extracted oil and gas to the production of petrochemicals. In this sense, the evolution towards electric cars and sustainable heating is partly responsible for oil companies looking at other applications. By 2030, for example, the International Energy Agency (IEA) predicts an increase of as much as 70 percent in ethane production, the most widely used raw material for plastics. The fact that there is no shortage of plastics, and that the price of plastics is therefore very low, does not stop the industry from planning and building new installations.

On the other hand the fight against plastic pollution encourages governments to take ever stricter measures. In the European Union, for example, there will be regulations against the use of disposable plastics, and there will also be an obligation to recycle an increasing percentage of plastic. That recycled plastic, and the companies that are going to recycle, will have to compete with an abundance of cheap new plastic. 

Where are all of Ineos plastics going to go? Our fear is that these  will be partly exported to continents with less regulation. Recently, for example, we saw pressure in the United States from a number of large chemical and oil companies to influence the trade agreement with Kenya. The question was whether Kenya could not scrap its ban on disposable plastic, and whether it could not become a distribution centre for the distribution of plastic to other African countries.

That’s absolutely right. A huge number of products contain some form of plastics. Plastic is a hugely versatile, convenient, and strong material. Moreover, it is difficult to break down a super material aHowever, today we see that many of these plastics end up in the environment after a short use. There they break into pieces, until they eventually become microplastics, tiny pieces of plastic that even end up in the food chain, and from there into our bodies. A super material that we just throw away.

That is precisely why we need to focus on a circular chain for plastic products, whereby eventually plastic itself becomes the raw material for plastic. There is already a huge amount of plastics that we can use for this. And moreover, there are installations worldwide that already produce an abundance of plastic. It is completely certain there is no need for any more new plastics production for a long time.

Indeed, during the current Covid crisis, there has been a great need for flexible, washable, disposable material. But there’s not really a shortage of raw materials for those things. And besides, it’s a temporary spike in demand. By the time the new INEOS installations supply their raw materials, demand has already fallen, and thus the surplus of e.g. ethylene will only increase.

Important nuance: INEOS uses shale gas as a raw material which is perhaps the most polluting, unhealthy option possible. We believe that if the health sector was given the choice to use more sustainable plastic (e.g. recycled), it would not opt for the INEOS single use plastics.

The new INEOS installations are used for the production of raw materials for plastics, not for the production of products that may or may not be useful.

INEOS itself likes to cite the argument that their raw materials will lead to useful, sustainable products. To some extent, this is also true, but statistics show that a particularly large part of the raw materials that will be made at INEOS will eventually be used for packaging and disposable plastic.

INEOS also uses shale gas as a raw material,perhaps the most polluting, unsustainable option possible. We believe that if manufacturers of sustainable products had the choice to use more sustainable plastic (e.g. recycled), they would not opt for the INEOS shale gas-based plastics.

The Biological Valuation Map of the Flemish Government describes the zone in which INEOS wants to build its project as ‘a complex of biologically valuable elements’. These are interesting pioneer vegetation with scattered bushes , together more than 40 hectares of valuable nature. With the planned interventions, the nests and breeding sites of many protected animal and bird species can also be irrevocably lost. These include shore swallows, lapwings, oystercatchers,shelducks,meadow pipits,  buzzards and also the rare natterjack toad

In an initial Environmental Impact Report (EIA), INEOS did not take  the special species in the area sufficiently into account. Following the rejection of that first report, a number of paragraphs have been amended. For example, INEOS will now “search” a new mating area for the natterjack toad. There is talk of a pond that would be dug nearby where these  toads can then breed new toads. For the bird species, they assume that a nearby marshy area where other birds breed can also serve  for, among other things, the lapwings. They therefore also promise to have those nearby fields mown a month later than they do now.

With this, the whole file holds the view that nature is entirely man-made and transplantable. However, this has already de facto and legally been refuted in other projects. For example, both the European Birds and Habitats Directive explicitly state that damage to nesting and planting sites is prohibited in principle. Only in exceptional cases can this be deviated from. Strangely enough, INEOS does not even ask for that exception, as if assuming that they do not damage nesting and mating areas nor vegetation sites here.

For further reading:

https://www.knack.be/nieuws/belgie/bestaat-onaangeroerde-wildernis-hier-nog-wel-zonevreemde-natuur-werpt-nieuwe-vragen-op/article-opinion-1662381.html

Of course jobs are important. But it is also important to bear in mind that so far this is only a promise, a lure, and not a guarantee. Moreover, these are jobs in a sector and with a technology that is under pressure worldwide, and which will soon be outpaced by more climate-friendly alternatives. Jobs that do not promise to be very sustainable.

We believe that the same efforts can create as many or even more jobs that do focus on circularity and climate neutrality. Jobs that everyone knows will be much needed in the coming decades. Moreover, the chemical sector itself has many projects underway for more climate-neutral technologies, such as processes powered by electricity and hydrogen. It is our conviction, and it is already visible in practice, that young technical graduates are trained for the techniques of tomorrow, and therefore rather look for future-oriented, green jobs. So it might be that there is not even much interest in the jobs at INEOS.

In addition: INEOS has a dubious record regarding working conditions and terms of employment. The company has been repeatedly condemned worldwide for substandard working conditions and employment terms.

We are not opposed to more employment in Flanders, quite the opposite. But we do believe that the same financial efforts and promises that are being made now would create as many or more jobs in more sustainable and forward-looking projects. Moreover, INEOS is notorious in its European companies for its whole list of breaches of social and environmental law. So we don’t think it’s the ideal company and the ideal project to invest in with Flemish taxpayers’ money.

INEOS is indeed a huge company, but we can derive from various sources that their short term trading involves risks and that its business model is far from stable in the longer term.

For example, INEOS fully finances its projects by loans. The reimbursement depends on the (unpredictable) future. The two main credit rating agencies (Moody’s and Fitch) have also investigated this. For a loan that INEOS took out in October, they give the rating BBB, meaning they think the company is “able to repay its loans, but that there is more chance that negative economic developments will change this.”

As a result, it was also doubtful in advance whether INEOS could knock on the door of the Belgian banks for Project ONE. The solution that has been found is the guarantee of the Participation Company Flanders. Details of this have been carefully kept secret, but according to our experts, it comes down to the following: if INEOS cannot repay its future loans for Project ONE, then PMV – you and I, the taxpayer – guarantees repayment.

To get back to the question: not INEOS guarantees more prosperity, but you yourself!

This is a fallacy that is often cited, also by INEOS itself. But the truth is that INEOS wants to build an installation that closely matches its other factories and those of its customers. And then there are only a few possibilities.

Initially only Rotterdam and Antwerp and no other places were eligible. Rotterdam eventually dropped the plan. We don’t know what made the difference. But two important arguments certainly were the distance from existing installations and customers, and the ‘welcome package’ of the governments.

Two more remarks. First, we – Flanders – are not the champions of environmental requirements, contrary to what the question seems to suggest. Rather, in many European rankings we are at the tail. So if INEOS is looking for a place where there are lower requirements, they may also end up in Flanders.

Secondly, we believe that we should not give in or participate in a bid by cities that promise multinationals such as INEOS all kinds of tax advantages and support measures to attract the plant. We believe that international opposition to these polluting multinationals is absolutely necessary, and that this starts with resistance in Flanders. Our port has an international appeal and the ambition to become climate-friendly; cancelling the construction of this factory can therefore be a clear international sign.

From the beginning there were few places where this factory could be built. Project One supplies raw materials for the other installations and must therefore be connected to them, or at least very close. Furthermore, INEOS needs the necessary infrastructure to feed the raw materials and bring the finished products to its customers. A large, accessible port, with a local cluster of customers and a network of pipelines, railways and highways.

It is perhaps the most economical cracker at the moment compared to the ones that have been here for a while. New cars are also more economical than those that have been on the track for a number of years. But just like with cars, we’re at a critical point.

We are looking for ways to radically change heavy industry and make it more climate neutral, including by using hydrogen and green electricity. The moment the first crackers with these new technologies are there, this INEOS cracker is suddenly hopelessly outdated (but has to last a long time, maybe decades). And just like with cars, there is no way to turn a fossil installation into an electric one.

In summary, this cracker is already technology of the past, although – admittedly – compared to other installations it is an efficient technology of the past. Also important, and completely separate from whether the cracker is efficient or not: the installation uses polluting, harmful shale gas to make (predominantly) disposable plastic. Both that raw material (shale gas) and the product (disposable plastic) are permanently unsustainable.

For this non-forward-looking installation, INEOS relies on subsidies and guarantees paid for by public funds, which we believe would be better spent on industry that is forward-looking, climate-neutral, and circular. 

The Biological Valuation Map of the Flemish Government describes the zone in which INEOS wants to build its project as ‘a complex of biologically valuable elements’. These are interesting pioneer vegetation with scattered bushes , together more than 40 hectares of valuable nature. With the planned interventions, the nests and breeding sites of many protected animal and bird species can also be irrevocably lost. These include shore swallows, lapwings, oystercatchers,shelducks,meadow pipits,  buzzards and also the rare natterjack toad

This area has indeed also been intended as an industrial location. However, every company that wants to set up a project there must comply with the rules of, among other things, the European Birds and Habitats Directive.

We believe there are quite a bit of forward-looking companies that want and can do that. We are not as cynical as to believe that if one company does not destroy things, another will be eager to do so. In fact, it is probably difficult to find another company besides INEOS that has such a dedain for the environment (including their employees, by the way). If this soil retains the same colouring in the land registry and therefore remains industrial land, let it be used by a company that focuses on the green transition and goes for a real compensation of the forest. Different and better, as far as we’re concerned.

INEOS, like most fossil fuel companies, has a big problem when it comes to making its business acceptable to the government and the general public. Worldwide, you can see that such companies make great PR efforts to make their business appear more sustainable. This phenomenon is called ‘’greenwashing”.

And indeed, in the context of greenwashing, positive actions are also being set up, but they are very small compared to the total negative impact of those companies. A clear illustration are the ships by which INEOS transports gas. That gas is shale gas, so hugely polluting and climate-unfriendly, and the raw material for the infamous plastic droppings that end up everywhere in nature. Yet INEOS just puts the slogan ‘Keep our rivers clean’ on those ships, and financially supports an initiative by the industry to discharge less plastic into the rivers and seas. It doesn’t get any more cynical. 

In short: Congratulations for the positive actions that really make a difference. But as long as INEOS’ business model causes far more climate damage and environmental damage than the actions can compensate for, we cannot give this company a medal.

INEOS has indeed signed two major contracts for the supply of green energy from wind farms. This allows them to get some of their energy needs from a sustainable source. We very much welcome this initiative, and we hope that INEOS will eventually involve its full electricity consumption from non-fossil sources.

However, this will only solve part of the problem in the long run. As long as INEOS continues to supply the polluting shale gas as a raw material, and as long as they produce CO2 themselves in their production process, the company will continue to contribute net to the climate disruption. Economists such as Geert Noels therefore believe that the extraction of shale gas should be banned – who are we to contradict him on that point?

Also this objection : INEOS will make raw materials in its new installations that will largely end up in packaging and disposable plastics. This at a time when the world community is taking measures to get rid of this kind of plastics. Is it wise, then, to ‘misuse’ large quantities of renewable energy to make something that is already available in abundance, and which we want to get rid of? There are many more pressing, including industrial, needs that require sustainable energy.

We are not advocating a world without plastic. There are certainly many useful, and even vital, applications. The point is that in many areas there are opportunities to make plastic production many times more sustainable, and none of these opportunities are used here. On the contrary.

For example, a large part of the raw materials such as INEOS that produces still go to the production of single-use plastic. Now just about everyone agrees that plastic is far too ‘good’ material to use it only once and then throw it away. Alternatives are already obvious for that part. The reason why plastic is used is because it is so cheap. This installation will contribute to this.

 Then there is also, for example, the possibility to make plastics based on sources other than the polluting shale gas. For example, plastic can also be made from biological material (plants). It may still be plastic, but the source is more durable. Another possibility is to make plastic from plastic, so chemical recycling. That is what, for example, the European Union wants to focus on more and more. But with the current and future planned abundance of new polyethylene, alternatives will always be more expensive. Also due to this installation.

In summary: of course we still need plastics. But that doesn’t mean we need a new big plant that makes new plastic based on shale gas.

It just depends. Competitive in what right? In any case, it will no longer make us competitive in the future circular and climate-neutral European economy. On the contrary, from the moment this plant goes into production, we will have a harder time achieving greener targets. The port of Antwerp will fall in the ranking of future-oriented ports and the Antwerp region will have a harder time maintaining itself as a healthy region.

Moreover, is it wise to gain advantages over one another with looser rules for polluting industry within Europe ? Do we want to live in one of the most polluted, but competitive, regions? Is that a plan for the future that we want to give ourselves, our children and grandchildren as gifts?

Important to know: it is the ambition of the Port of Antwerp itself to focus on circular economy and to become climate neutral in the long term. To achieve this, many plans and concrete initiatives have already been launched. It is therefore our impression that the expansion of INEOS is not very timely for the port’s future plans either, although no one will officially admit it.

For more information about the port’s climate ambition, see here:

https://www.portofantwerp.com/nl/klimaatactie

So it is certainly not about the dreams of young activists alone. The campaign also consists of participants of all ages with expertise in all kinds of domains. A forward-looking, realistic vision is paramount. If some people like to call that dreamy, then we don’t even think that’s a bad description. The port itself apparently dreams of that too.

It’s cynical and wrong to pretend nothing can change. So many positive changes seemed impossible until they happened. We therefore demand a viable economy in a livable environment for both dockworkers and everyone else outside it. And we believe that those who think that in a context of climate derailment everything can remain the same, do not stand with their feet in reality.

The port itself has many concrete plans for this. See, among other things, this page: https://www.portofantwerp.com/nl/klimaatactie

In our vision, citizens, movements and employees decide on shaping the circular port of the future. We want to safeguard the space for this, and therefore want to prevent the construction of this plastic factory.

We are in favour of protection and participation at work and therefore supported the strike at INEOS Phenol. We stand for climate justice. For us, social protection and the environment are parts of the same struggle for a different system. Neither workers nor the environment should be sacrificed for the profits of CEOs and shareholders.

If there’s one thing the crisis has shown, it’s that it’s often the commitment of workers and employees that keeps the economy and healthcare functioning. In the end, it is the many workers who take care of our common prosperity, not only in the port but also in healthcare.

We do not undermine the role of entrepreneurs, but we see that some – such as Jim Ratcliffe of INEOS – are particularly interested in short-term financial gain. They leave the pollution, environmental damage, climate problems, and health problems to society.

Finally, with this development, Flemish fossil chemistry clearly slows down the transition to climate neutrality and climate justice. We believe that it is also to the advantage of Flemish workers to take the right path to the future, and not to take a path that will die within a few years.