21 June 2011 17:03 [Source: ICIS news]
Within a week, Eni’s petrochemical arm, Polimeri Europa, will close its 250,0000 tonne/year cracker at Porto Torres in
A €500m ($714m) project, Matrica (‘mother’ in the local Gallurese dialect), is taking shape in
Some seven bio-based production units are planned for the Porto Torres site which, within the next six years, are to be used to produce monomers, polymers, lubricants additives and fillers. Eni has plans to build a €250m biomass-driven power station to supply electricity to a complex that will be integrated with on-site biomass feedstock and local agricultural production.
“The bio-based chemical complex at Porto Torres will be one of the most important in the sector at a global level due to its innovative integrated production chain, its size and the massive overall installed capacity of 350,000 tonnes/year of bioproducts,” the companies said last week.
The plan is an example of what companies might do to capitalise on existing infrastructure as more bio-processing is introduced. It also points a way forward for some of the most challenged parts of the European chemical industry which are operating in an increasingly competitive global market environment.
Some chemical production sites in
The companies aim to create an integrated product chain from vegetable oil to bioplastics. They also intend to tap in to a market for bio-based chemicals that was forecast by Lux Research in September 2010 to grow by 17.7% a year, reaching 8.1m tonnes annually in 2015. A research centre will also be located at the site.
“The project hopes to impact positively on the national chemical industry by bringing to market a virtuous production cycle based on technological innovation and sustainability whilst creating employment in the local area,” the companies say.
“A fundamental and innovative element of the project is its integrated supply chain and the raw material to produce the vegetable oil will be grown on site, in synergy with local food production.”
The new production units will be brought onstream in three distinct phases, but all the traditional chemical plants at the site except those producing nitrile rubber (NBR) will be shut down.
The current status of the production of other chemicals from the cracker and downstream is unknown, although the site has high density polyethylene (HDPE), propylene, benzene, toluene, cyclohexanol and linear alkyl benzene (LAB) capacities.
The first phase of the transformation to bio-processing will see the construction of a bio-monomers plant/bio-refinery and a bio-lubricants plant. Intermediates from the first of these will then be used in next-stage steps to make bio-additives and bio-fillers for the rubber industry.
The first-phase plants will be scaled up in a third phase which will also see the construction of a bioplastics plant. Novamont has said that demand for its biopolymers, which are based on vegetable oil and corn starch, has in recent years been growing by 20-30% a year.
The switch of feedstock marks a great step change at Porto Torres but one which other chemical production sites in Europe and elsewhere may yet be forced, or want, to take.
Polimeri Europa is selling the transition in
“The new system will integrate agriculture with the chemical industry to create the bases for more competitiveness in the region, more opportunities for work and development, and more cooperation between the local government and industrial and agriculture infrastructures,” said the Novamont CEO, Catia Bastioli (translated from Italian).
($1 = €0.70)
Read Doris de Guzman’s ICIS Green Chemicals blog
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