UOP, a unit of Honeywell dealing with petrol refinery technology, has lodged an appeal at the Court of First Instance challenging a decision by the European Commission to allow aid to France’s Institut Francais du Petrole Group – a research body for hydrocarbon technology.
UOP is seeking annulment of the Commission’s decision in July 2008 which found that the aid granted to Institut Francais du Petrole and its subsidiaries Axens and Prosernat was legal and complied with State aid rules on research and development.
Institut Francais du Petrole performs research and development for oil, gas and petrochemicals technologies and also for trains engineers and technicians. In 2005 and 2006 it is understood to have received about €150 million per year in aid.
The basis of UOP’s case is that it believes the Commission was wrong to allow the aid, having misunderstood the nature of the research and development undertaken by Institut Francais du Petrole. Further it failed, so UOP contends, to take into account the operating aid which had already been granted to Axens and Prosernat (for example, UOP alleges that the Commission did not consider benefits which had been received by Axens through continued use of pilot plants and education grants).