Global petrochemical giant Ineos said Tuesday it plans to invest more than $3 billion to build a world scale ethane cracker and propane dehydrogenation unit in northwest Europe to take better advantage of U.S. natural gas supplies.
Ineos said the facility would be Europe’s first new cracker in two decades. Both units, the company said, would “benefit from U.S. shale gas economics.”
The company, which already operates crackers in the region in Scotland and Norway, said a site would soon be determined, likely somewhere on northwest Europe’s coast. The facility is expected to be completed within four years.
“This new project will increase Ineos self-sufficiency in all key olefin products and give further support to our derivatives business and polymer plants in Europe,” said Chairman Gerd Franken, of Ineos’ olefins and polymers north business. “All our assets will benefit from our ability to import competitive raw materials” from the United States and the rest of the world.
The company has long-term supply agreements with several unconventional gas producers, particularly those operating in the Appalachian Basin. Ineos became the first European company to contract for U.S. shale gas feedstock in 2012 in an agreement with Marcellus Shale heavyweight Range Resources Corp.
Ineos delivered the first U.S. gas to Europe in 2016, a shipment of Appalachian ethane that was picked up at the Marcus Hook Industrial Complex near Philadelphia. The company also takes deliveries from the only other ethane export facility in the country, Enterprise Products Partners LP’s Morgan’s Point terminal on the Houston Ship Channel.
Ineos operates plastics manufacturing facilities at sites across the country, including those in California, Texas and New Mexico. It also formed a partnership five years ago with Sasol Ltd. to build a high-density polyethylene plant at its Battleground Manufacturing Complex in La Porte, TX.
“This new investment builds on the huge investment we made in bringing U.S. shale gas to Europe and will ensure the long-term future of our European chemical plants,” Ineos founder Jim Ratcliffe said.
Before it accepted ethane exports from the United States, Ineos expanded its Rafnes site in Norway and its Grangemouth cracker site in Scotland to provide more ethane storage to feed those plants, among other improvements. Tuesday’s announcement comes after another decision by Ineos last year to increase the capacity of its existing crackers.