Westlake plans to restart US cracker on weekend

20 March 2009 19:04  [Source: ICIS news]

HOUSTON (ICIS news)--Westlake Chemical plans to restart its Lake Charles cracker in Louisiana on the weekend, following a string of restarts in the US industry, market sources said on Friday.

Westlake shut down the 544,000 tonne/year unit in December due to weak monomer demand.

The company has a second cracker of the same size at the site that remained operational during the period.

A Westlake spokesperson was not immediately available for comment.

The start-up in Lake Charles follows recent restarts at units operated by DuPont, Formosa, Shell and Sasol.

Sasol has resumed operations at its Lake Charles facility, which was taken off line in the second half of February for planned compressor maintenance, market sources said.

The company had previously planned to perform a turnaround at the 431,000 tonne/year unit next October, but that has been pushed back to April 2010, a market participant said.

A Sasol spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Meanwhile, Shell restarted its Norco OL-5 cracker in Louisiana, but Norco GO-1 remained off line, market sources said.

The restart date for GO-1 was unknown, sources said.

OL-5 has 930,000 tonnes/year of capacity, while GO-1 has 626,000 tonnes/year, according to ICIS plants and projects.

The outage in Norco forced Shell to declare force majeure on US ethylene deliveries for March. Allocation was set at 80%, according to sources.

A Shell spokesperson declined to comment on operations, citing company policy.

Market participants said production gains from the recent start-ups were partly responsible for a sharp drop in ethylene spot prices in mid March.

The drop was also attributed to a recent slowdown in monomer demand.

US spot ethylene for March last traded at 23-24 cents/lb ($507-529/tonne or €370-386/tonne) on 13 March, down from 32-33 cents/lb on 3 March.

Remaining outages at US olefins plants include:

  • Dow Chemical (Freeport LHC-8, Texas - 998,000 tonnes/year). Cracker was taken off line on 5 February. Restart delayed. The unit was originally planned to be restarted on 21 February.
  • Dow Chemical (St Charles OL2, Louisiana - 390,000 tonnes/year). Unit was shut down in early January for maintenance. Restart date unknown.
  • Equistar (Chocolate Bayou, Texas - 544,000 tonnes/year). LyondellBasell said on 12 February it would indefinitely idle unit due to weak monomer demand.
  • Chevron Phillips Chemical (Sweeny 22, Texas - 295,000 tonnes/year). Company said on 21 November it would shut down plant for an unspecified length of time.
  • Flint Hills Resources (Odessa, Texas - 348,000 tonnes/year). Plant will be permanently shut down in the first half of 2009. Shutdown process began on 3 January.
  • ExxonMobil (Beaumont, Texas - 826,000 tonnes/year). Unit has been off line since September due to hurricane. Restart unknown.
  • Eastman Chemical (Longview, Texas - 141,000 tonnes/year.) Unit was shut down in late November due to operational issues. Remains offline.

($1 = €0.73)

For more on olefins visit ICIS chemical intelligence
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By: William Lemos
+1 713 525 2653

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