NPRA '11: US TPC Group mulls expansion - new president

28 March 2011 19:28  [Source: ICIS news]

SAN ANTONIO, Texas (ICIS)--US-based TPC Group is considering expanding both its butadiene (BD) production as well as its isobutylene and derivatives capacity, the company's new president said on Monday.

The company has not announced any specific plans, said Michael McDonnell, who became president of TPC on 22 March.

McDonnell was speaking on the sidelines of the International Petrochemical Conference (IPC).

Joining McDonnell was Charles Shaver, the previous president. Shaver had announced his retirement in September.

Possible expansion is the next step for TPC Group, which was recently listed on the NASDAQ.

Already, the company is conducting a study regarding the possible restart of an isobutylene line, McDonnell said.

TPC should complete the study by mid summer, he said. Afterwards, the company would decide if it will restart the line or keep it idle.

If restarted, the company could take two years to start production, he said. The value of such a project would be $100m-150m (€71m-107m).

Isobutylene is a feedstock for methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE) and ethyl tertiary butyl ether (ETBE). Outside of the US, both ethers are used as octane boosters for fuel.

"Those are still valuable global markets," McDonnell said.

TPC could also sell its isobutylene product to butyl rubber producers.

In addition, isobutylene is a feedstock for polyisobutylene (PIB), a product used to make fuel additives and lubricant additives.

PIB demand has been growing rapidly as lubricants have increasingly stringent demands placed upon them.

TPC Group produces a particular grade of PIB called highly-reactive PIB (HR PIB), which has replaced older technologies, Shaver said.

Moreover, the huge Asian market is adopting the latest technology, which could further increase demand for HR PIB, Shaver said.

TPC Group may also expand BD capacity. It has a second idled isobutylene line that could be converted to on-purpose BD production.

Such a process was once considered too energy intensive and cost prohibitive. However, rising costs of traditional feedstocks, strong demand for BD derivatives and falling costs of alternative feedstocks have made on-purpose BD production a viable alternative.

Any expansion, though, would need to be prudent and focused, McDonnell said.

"What I'm going to make sure we do is make sure we have a very disciplined and very focused approach to our strategies," McDonnell said.

The challenge for TPC is selecting the right project, choosing the right site, establishing agreements with customers and executing its strategy, McDonnell said.

Hosted by the National Petrochemical & Refiners Association (NPRA), the IPC continues through Tuesday.

($1 = €0.71)

For more on BD visit ICIS chemical intelligence

By: Al Greenwood
+1 713 525 2645

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