26 September 2004 15:21 [Source: ICIS news]
Whitehead, who was speaking on the sidelines of the European Petrochemical Association (EPCA) annual meeting*, said the in-house technology was being tested at Shell's US research laboratory near Houston in Texas.
It is being evaluated at a pilot plant which was built during the first half of this year and came onstream in the last few months, said Whitehead.
He declined to reveal any details of the new process. However, Whitehead added that, if proven, the new technology could be incorporated in a new worldscale (at least 100 000 tonne/year) plant likely to be located in China or Singapore.
Shell is already building an 800 000 tonne/year naphtha cracker at Daya Bay near Guangdong in southern China and is expected to make a decision before the end of this year over whether or not to proceed with the definition phase of its cracker project in
Whitehead declined to comment on the likely cost of the plant or the relative merits of Singapore versus China as a likely location. New worldscale solvent plants of around 100 000 tonne/year, however, typically involve an investment of around $80m-$120m (Euro66m-Euro99m).
A new MEK plant in Asia would enable Shell to take advantage of the strong regional growth in solvents compared with Europe and the US. Whitehead said that solvents demand in Asia is growing at about 5% a year compared with 1% or less in Europe and the US.
Since completing new facilities in Pernis, Rotterdam, Shell has been concentrating investment in solvents capacity on rejuvenating and debottlenecking existing plants. Whitehead said Shell had plans for an isopropanol alcohol (IPA) debottlenecking over the next two years but declined to identify the plant's location.
*The EPCA conference runs through Tuesday (29 September).
CNI's EPCA newsroom: Suite Naiades C, Grand Hotel; Tel. + 377-9315-1070/71
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