Leading petrochemical companies show confidence in the Port of Antwerp with billion-dollar investments

Port of Antwerp was delighted in 2014 that several leading energy companies announced record levels of investment in the port. Both ExxonMobil and TOTAL will be making huge strategic investments in Antwerp and meanwhile, the Port Authority itself is ensuring that the petrochemical cluster can thrive by a series of initiatives.

In the summer of 2014, US oil giant ExxonMobil showed its level of faith in the port by announcing a mega 1 billion dollar investment in its refinery. The company started to build a Delayed Coker Unit in October for converting heavy, high-sulphur oil residues into cleaner oil products and to produce transport fuel such as diesel and fuel oil for the maritime industry. Over the past decade the US company has already invested more than 2 billion dollars in Antwerp.

With this investment ExxonMobil will extend its product range and boost its competitive position worldwide. ExxonMobil already has a solid presence in Belgium, with a refinery of 320,000 barrels per day and three chemical plants (one for hydrocarbon solvents and two for polyethylene), plus its European R&D Centre.

French energy company TOTAL also made the decision to invest 1 billion euro in a modernisation programme for its Antwerp production plant. Antwerp is the company’s largest refining and petrochemical platform in Europe. By concentrating its investments on this large integrated platform, TOTAL aims to reinforce its competitive position within the industry. One of the investment projects, named OPTARA, is a new refining complex intended primarily for converting heavy fuel oil into desulphurised diesel and domestic heating oil with ultra-low sulphur content, in response to the shift in demand towards more environmentally-friendly products. The new plant is due to begin operations in 2016.

BASF Antwerp has also started up a new extraction plant for butadiene. The Antwerp plant, which will have an annual production capacity of 155,000 tonnes, is the second BASF butadiene extraction plant in Europe after its headquarters in Ludwigshaven.

Meanwhile, Evonik Industries chose Antwerp to build the first commercial plant in the world to produce AQUAVI® Met-Met, an innovative feedstuff additive specially developed for aquaculture of shrimps and other crustaceans. In addition, the company is building a 100,000 tonne 1-butene production plant and expanding its methyl tertiary-butyl ether (MTBE) production capacity by up to 150,000 tonnes.

American industrial gas company Praxair is building its second air separation plant and extending its pipeline system in the Port of Antwerp. Thanks to this investment, Praxair will be able to increase its supply of oxygen and nitrogen to companies in the port.

At the same time, French industrial gas company Air Liquide is investing some 50 million euro, doubling its carbon monoxide (CO) production capacity in the Port. The CO will be supplied to BASF, which uses the carbon monoxide for its methylene diphenyl diisocyanate (MDI) production. MDI is an important precursor for making polyurethane (PU), a plastic that can be supplied in various forms and has many applications, being used in freezers, refrigerators, the car industry and for varnishes, shoes, leisure articles amongst other things.

In 2014, leading speciality chemical company Lanxess has taken its new high-tech plastics plant in Lillo, on the on the left bank of the River Scheldt, into operation.

The new facility, which produces plastic for car parts has an annual capacity of 90,000 tonnes, and represents an investment of 75 million euros.
Polyamide is used as a light plastic in the automotive industry, helping to reduce the weight of vehicles and in turn, lowering their fuel consumption and CO2 emissions.

Additionally, LBC Tank Terminals has responded to the new Emission Control Areas regulations concerning sulphur limitations. LBC added extra storage capacity allowing bunker players to meet the sulphur oxides limitations introduced on January 1, 2015. LBC’s Antwerp now offers an additional 35,000 m3 capacity for storage of distillates and heavy fuel oil.

Meanwhile, Ineos Phenol Belgium and ADPO signed a cooperation agreement, which will give ADPO water access to the River Scheldt via the existing INEOS Phenol jetty and will connect the INEOS Phenol site to the European railway network. Supported by this cooperation ADPO is building a new 12 ha tank storage terminal on the left bank of the River Scheldt. This terminal will be named ADPO Liefkenshoek Logistic Hub or ADPO LLH. Phase 1 of this groundbreaking project will contain 27,000 m3 of mild steel and 10,000 m3 of stainless steel tank storage capacity, a 10,000 m² chemical warehouse and a 3 ha ISO container storage site. In a second phase there is expansion space available for another three tank compounds, representing 60,000 m3 of tank storage capacity.

Noord Natie Terminals too, announced a major expansion. Currently, the company has 240 tanks and a total capacity of 350,000 m3. However, an additional expansion up to 90,000 m3 will be possible in the future. Six hectares of new land adjacent to the existing terminal will accommodate 32 tanks of 1,250 m3, 2,500 m3 and 5,000 m3. This will add an additional 500 m of berth length with two new manifolds to the terminal.
As well as the new tank pits, two loading stations with six loading bays for trucks, two of which can be used for rail cars, will also be constructed.

In August 2014, Borealis, a leading provider in the fields of polyolefins, base chemicals and fertilisers, announced that it has signed an agreement with DuPont Holding Netherlands B.V. to purchase the company’s 67% shareholding in Speciality Polymers Antwerp N.V. The acquisition showed the company’s strategy to grow its polyolefin business and further strengthened Antwerp’s position in this specialist business.

Additionally in 2014, the first LNG tank station opened for trucks at ADPO, Separately, by 2016, it should be possible for barges in the port to bunker with LNG from a fixed station.

Also 3M announced a new investment, a new solvent-free glue production line in Zwijndrecht (Antwerp). The project has a EUR 9.6m price tag and is part of EUR 20m investment plan. At the site, 3M hosts both research and production activities, the latter mainly involving high-quality rubber and glue. Due to a shortage of capacity in the United States — but also because of the proximity of scientific knowledge and expertise — 3M decided on Zwijndrecht as the location for its new solvent-free production line. The new line is expected to produce “several thousand tonnes” every year.