25 March 2002 14:25 [Source: ICIS news]
SAN ANTONIO, Texas (CNI)--California's decision to delay by one year its ban of methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE) in the state's gasolines has no long-term impact on the fate of MTBE, a top producer said here.
Bill Waycaster, president and chief executive of Houston-based Texas Petrochemicals Company (TPC), told CNI that in the near term California's postponement of its MTBE-ban implementation "simply means we've got another season in the California market."
California Governor Gray Davis announced earlier this month that he would not implement the state's promised ban on MTBE as a gasoline oxygenate on 1 January 2003 as scheduled, saying the deadline would be put back a year to 2004.
"But long term," Waycaster said, "we're still operating on the basis that California will eliminate MTBE, and we and other producers are looking for alternative products" for their MTBE production facilities.
He said he did not see the one-year delay of the California ban as an indication that the tide of public opinion and political opposition to MTBE can be turned.
But like other MTBE producers and others in the US chemicals industry, Waycaster said he is opposed to pending legislation in the US Congress that would mandate a three-fold increase in the use of ethanol as an oxygenate. The US national energy policy bill now pending in the Senate carries that mandate.
He noted that in addition to MTBE's role as a clean-air oxygenate in gasolines, it also provides octane values that cannot easily be replaced. "I'm not saying there is no alternative [to MTBE], but I would be reluctant to turn the oxygenate and octane market over to the ethanol guys. That could leave us with no competition in the market."
Waycaster, who previously served as chairman of the petrochemicals committee at the National Petrochemical & Refiners Association (NPRA), said "It will be interesting to see what Congress does on the oxygen standards" in the pending energy bill.
If Congress eliminates or sharply curtails the Clean Air Act's 2% oxygenate rule for reformulated gasoline (RFG), it could alter the balance of comparison between MTBE and ethanol. An energy bill is expected by the end of this year.
Waycaster spoke with CNI at NPRA's 27th annual International Petrochemicals Conference (IPC), which runs through Tuesday.
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