26 February 2004 21:59 [Source: ICIS news]
SALVADOR, Brazil (CNI)--Copesul said Thursday it expects to shift its methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE) production unit to alternative products by 2007 at the earliest as it exits the MTBE market under pressure of MTBE bans in North America and Europe.
The company announced earlier today that it will halt production of MTBE, but it did not at that time have a timetable for the transition from MTBE to alternative products.
An exact date for an end to Copesul's MTBE output will depend, the company said, on the speed with which the increasing number of MTBE bans are put into force in the US and Europe.
Julio Cesar Costa Beber, process engineer at the Brazilian petrochemicals group, explained that no final decision has yet been made regarding the timing of Copesul’s exit from MTBE production, but in the meantime various alternative production options are being examined.
A feasibility study is expected to be completed in about six months time and, if approved, the project would take about two and a half years to complete, from basic engineering to commissioning, he said.
Copesul expects to convert the 115 000 tonne/year MTBE plant to produce iso-octene, which could, if necessary, be hydrogenated to create iso-octane. Iso-octene would be the simpler and cheaper option, Beber said, but environmental regulations in the US and Europe may favour iso-octane.
The company, which is located in Triunfo, Rio Grande do Sul state in southern Brazil, exports all of its MTBE output, mainly to the US and Europe.
There is no MTBE market in Brazil because that oxygenate is banned in favour of Brazil's agriculture-based ethanol industry.
Copesul has invited four companies – Lummus, Snamprogetti, Lyondell and Petrobras – to submit proposals to carry out the feasibility study, according to Beber. One of these companies is expected to be selected within the next two months, and the study will take approximately four or five months, he said.
According to local reports, state-owned energy group Petrobras is also considering terminating its MTBE production. But a Petrobras spokesman declined to comment.
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