Dow may expand ethane sourcing and cracking capabilities in US

03 February 2011 18:57  [Source: ICIS news]

HOUSTON (ICIS)--US-based Dow Chemical plans to increase its ethane sourcing and cracking capabilities in the US, chief executive Andrew Liveris said on Thursday.

Dow will carry out the project by switching its remaining naphtha crackers to ethane, Liveris said. He made his comments during an earnings conference call.

The company may also do some debottlenecking, Liveris said.

The company already relies on a high portion of lighter feeds for its crackers, Liveris said.

"We can go up to 80% LPG [liquified petroleum gas] cracking," he said. "We can even substitute some of the propane with ethane."

The company's ethane offtake is about 80,000 bbl/day, a third of the US market, he said.

Meanwhile, Dow will continue to pursue deals to obtain on-purpose propylene, Liveris said.

On-purpose propylene production uses propane as a feedstock versus refinery-sourced propylene, a co-product of gasoline. The latter accounts for about 60% of US propylene supply.

A shift towards propane-based propylene would give Dow a large cost advantage, especially given the advent of shale gas.

Already, Dow is taking half of the output from the new 544,000 tonne/year on-purpose propylene plant built by Petrologistics in Texas.

Regarding Dow's larger plastic business, Liveris repeated earlier comments about considering joint ventures or sales of the commodity units of the business.

Possible buyers could be other chemical producers or private-equity firms, Liveris said. In fact, Dow had sold its Styron business to Bain Capital.

Moreover, Dow is in no hurry to pursue any plastics deals, Liveris said. "We will do a right deal with the right assets at the right price."

Any deal would be part of Dow's plans to shift towards specialty plastics, Liveris said.

Dow will not pursue a massive deal like its failed K-Dow joint venture with Kuwait's Petrochemicals Industries Co (PIC), he said. That $17.4bn (€12.5) deal fell apart in the end of 2008.

($1 = €0.72)

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By: Al Greenwood
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