03 October 2005 00:02 [Source: ACN]
THE LOUD drums and prancing lions at a ceremony in Nanjing, China, last week marked not only the successful start of BASF-YPC’s cracker complex, but also BASF’s interest in using the complex to build its position in China.
The BASF executive director responsible for Asia, and its performance chemicals and functional polymers divisions, Andreas Kreimeyer, announced a plan to expand the 600 000 tonne/year cracker by up to 25%. He said the 300 000 tonne/year ethylene glycol/ethylene oxide (EO) plant could be expanded.
Also, BASF-YPC could use the C4s to produce specialities such as higher oxo-alcohols, fuel additives, and precursors. The C4s are being recycled as cracker feedstock.
As for propylene derivatives, Kreimeyer told ACN that the company’s 250 000 tonne/year oxo-alcohols plant could be expanded, but it would not be as easy to expand the acrylic esters and acrylic acid units. BASF-YPC, a joint venture between BASF, Yangzi Petrochemical, and Sinopec, produces 160 000 tonne/year of acrylic acid and 215 000 tonne/year of acrylic esters.
No timeline has been set for the expansion, but it had earlier been reported that cracker expansion could be carried out during a scheduled turnaround in 2008-09.
BASF’s plans are in line with its bullish outlook for China. Kreimeyer said earlier that the local speciality chemicals market was likely to develop rapidly at the expense of base chemicals as consumer industries shifted production to higher-value products. That would open up opportunities for coatings, polyurethane systems, auxiliary systems, surfactants, and intermediates.
But will Sinopec be keen on specialities?
The Chinese major is a leading player in the commodity polymers market and it wants to maintain this position. Sinopec president Wang Tianpu acknowledged that the growth of low-cost polyethylene capacities in the Middle East, aimed at the Chinese market, would have an impact on its market share. He said Sinopec would improve its competitiveness by building projects faster, and by improving the quality and variety of its polymers portfolio.
In future, the two partners are likely to go their own way. Bernd Blumenberg, president of BASF-YPC, has said that BASF saw no need to involve Sinopec in new areas of business in China. And Wang said last week that Sinopec would go solo for future projects or build with other foreign partners.
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