BP wants to sell 36.9% stake in Trinidad's Atlas methanol plant

29 September 2011 22:37  [Source: ICIS news]

BP wants to sell stake in Trinidad methanol plantHOUSTON (ICIS)--BP wants to sell its entire 36.9% stake in Trinidad’s Atlas methanol plant as part of the oil giant’s ongoing asset divestment programme, the company said on Thursday.

A spokesman said BP was marketing its stake in the 1.7m tonne/year plant, which is a joint venture between BP and Methanex. The spokesman did not elaborate as to possible buyers.

Canadian-based Methanex is majority owner of the plant and is considered a logical buyer for BP’s portion.

A research note issued by Dahlman Rose in New York said, “We continue to believe that Methanex is the most likely buyer as it has 63.1% majority ownership interest and controls 100% of the distribution rights to the methanol.”

The report estimated that BP’s share of the Atlas plant is worth $125m-175m (€93m-130m).

Methanex did not immediately return calls seeking comment.

The US is a net importer of methanol. Plants at Trinidad’s Point Lisas Industrial Estate provide more than 70% of America's imports.

BP has committed to sell up to $30bn of non-core assets to help cover the cleanup costs of the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico in April 2010. The blowout left 11 workers dead and created one of the largest ever oil spills.

The British oil company has been selling assets for most of this year. Earlier this month, BP said it had sold assets in Africa for $296m to oil trading major Trafigura.

BP press officer Robert Wine said BP's other businesses in Trinidad namely, BP Trinidad & Tobago’s upstream gas production operations were not involved in the sale of the Atlas plant.

“Our strong upstream business in Trinidad and Tobago accounts for over 10% of the BP Group’s oil and gas production and remains a strategic asset,” Wine said.

Methanol sources said BP’s possible sale of its stake in the plant has been a gossip topic for at least a year.

“I heard if they sold the acetyls business then Atlas would be sold, too,” a seller said.

But the acetyls sales was considered unlikely, the seller added, because material made at the Atlas plant gave BP an economic edge in making acetic acid, which uses methanol as a feedstock.

A source close to BP had not heard of any sales of other chemical assets owned by the company.

($1 = €0.74)

For more on methanol, visit ICIS chemical intelligence

By: Lane Kelley
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