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BASF (Germany) invests half a billion euros in Flanders

At its site at the Port of Antwerp (Flanders), chemical giant BASF is building a second installation for the production of ethylene oxide. The German firm will also be expanding production capacity for products derived from this chemical. This will enable BASF to support the continuous growth of its customers in Europe.

BASf plant in Antwerp, Flanders

Growing demand

One type of derivative that will be produced (tensides) is used in detergents, shower gels and shampoos. Another derivative (methyltriglycol) serves as the basis of high-performance brake fluids for which demand is growing both in Europe and Asia.

“This is due to increasing production of cars with cruise and distance control,” explains BASF Antwerp spokesperson Fanny Hendricks. “We already produce brake fluids, but cruise control requires a different kind of brake fluid.” The investment will enable BASF to produce an additional 400,000 tons of ethylene oxide and derivatives. By way of comparison: in Antwerp and at BASF' homebase at Ludwigshafen, production capacity currently amounts to 845,000 tons per year.

Strong local anchorage

In Antwerp, BASF currently employs 3,200 people spread over a 6-km2 site. It is a vertically integrated facility that has its own 'cracker' based on crude oil. After Ludwigshafen, the Antwerp site is BASF’s largest worldwide. Why invest in Flanders and not in Germany? “The new installation is easy to integrate here and there was still some free space. In Ludwigshafen, this was a bit more difficult,” says Heyndrickx.

The phased start-up of the extra production capacity will begin in 2022. BASF management expects to create approximately 100 new jobs through this EUR 500,000,000 investment – mainly for engineers, process operators and technicians.

Attractive chemical cluster

In the past 12 months, major chemical companies like INEOS and Borealis have also announced substantial investments in Antwerp, Flanders. At the beginning of 2019, INEOS even launched the largest investment project in the European chemical sector in two decades –  funneling a staggering EUR 3 billion into the construction of a new factory. Just like Borealis, INEOS is setting up a new plant to convert propane gas into propylene, a basic raw material for the plastics industry. These plants’ activities form the very beginning of the chemical value chain, which opens opportunities for even more follow-up investments in the future.

The list of international chemical firms that recently decided to invest in Antwerp goes on and on. Last year, for example Nippon Shokubai opened factories for the production of super-absorbent polymers, an investment EUR 350 million. Covestro, on the other hand, is channeling EUR 300 million into the production of insulation raw materials. Meanwhile, Evonik earmarked EUR 50 million for an investment in increased production of silica, a raw material for paints.

Antwerp is attracting large projects at a remarkable speed.

Frank Beckx
Managing director, essenscia

More info

Reported by
De Tijd newspaper
3 October 2019

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