Mexico ethylene outage will limit downstream supply - Pemex

21 September 2010 19:51  [Source: ICIS news]

HOUSTON (ICIS)--A maintenance procedure at Mexico’s Pajaritos ethylene plant will limit the supply to downstream products including polyethylene (PE), a Pemex Petroquimica official said on Tuesday.

Pemex started maintenance work on the 180,000 tonnes/year ethylene plant on 19 September, said Alejandro Ramirez Chavez, Pemex’ polymers commercial manager. The entire procedure is expected to last about 30 days, he said.

The work will include cleaning of towers, heat exchangers and containers, as well as inspection and correction in the seals of refrigeration compressors, Pemex said.

Pemex has three ethylene production units, with the Pajaritos plant being the smallest. Plants at Morelos and Cangrejera each produce 600,000 tonnes/year.

This means that the ethylene capacity lost during the turnaround amounts to about 15% of the total ethylene production in Mexico.

Pemex schedulers have yet to specify what downstream products - including ethylene glycol (EG), ethylene oxide (EO) and PE, among others - will receive reduced volumes of ethylene and in what proportion.

Supply to the PE market in particular could also be impacted by programmed maintenance at the Morelos swing plant, which involves its linear low-density PE (LLDPE) and high-density PE (HDPE) units.

The work there was scheduled to begin on 29 September, but that procedure also began on 19 September and is scheduled to last 10-12 days, Pemex said.

Meanwhile, Pemex said that two other procedures were scheduled for later in the year. The Cangrejera plant, which has nominal capacity of 300,000 tonnes/year of low-density PE (LDPE), will start a 30-day maintenance on one of three production trains on 27 September, the company said.

In addition, a HDPE Asahi plant - with a nominal capacity of 100,000 tonnes/year – is scheduled to start a 30-day maintenance procedure on 1 November, the company said.

These maintenance stops are expected to have a larger impact on Mexico’s PE supply than the Pajaritos ethylene plant maintenance, the source said.

In the short-term, PE distributors in Mexico expected supply scarcity for some grades, but it was not clear how acute the shortages would be.

Plastic resins of US origin remained in tight supply in Mexico, with prices climbing in September about 5 cents/lb for PE and 3.5 cents/lb for polypropylene (PP), a distributor said.

($1 = €0.77)

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By: George Martin
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