InterviewCepsa plans major debottlenecking and acquisitions

04 November 2011 17:27  [Source: ICIS news]

LONDON (ICIS)--Spain’s Cepsa Quimica is planning to carry out a series of debottleneckings across many product chains as well as strengthen its product portfolio and geographic spread through acquisitions, its CEO said on Friday.  

Acquisitions will help Cepsa Quimica expand in the core areas of linear alkyl benzene (LAB), purified isophthalic acid (PIA), phenol and polyethylene terephthalate (PET) whilst debottleneckings are necessary to keep the company’s facilities in the top 25% in terms of production capacity and energy efficiency, according to Fernando Iturrieta.

He said the expansion strategy for the petrochemical products division of Spanish oil company Cepsa includes plans to boost market share in LAB by an acquisition. This could be in Asia or the Middle East.

“We would like a second site for purified isophthalic acid (PIA) in the Middle East or Asia. This could be an acquisition or investment in a site. In phenol, we would like to buy a competitor either in Europe or Asia.

“We have had some preliminary discussions, especially in phenol. We would like to close a phenol acquisition by the end of 2012,” he said.

For the phenol investment, Cepsa Quimica is looking at a three-figure million euro price. It has its sights on two or three candidates that include worldscale plants, Iturrieta added.

Asked about the actual price of the acquisition, he said: “Phenol has been in good shape the last couple of years but now the environment is not so positive, so the price will be lower, for sure.” 

He added: “We may eventually buy another PET plant in Europe. That could happen next year.”

The company also wants to add natural feedstock technology to its surfactants production.

Iturrieta said: “We are in LAB and derivatives but the other technology is alcohols, ethoxylates and derivatives: this is what we are missing. These are mostly natural alcohols and there is pressure to use natural rather than petrochemical products.”

He added that feedstocks for the alcohols and ethoxylates business were mostly in southeast Asia, although they could be brought to Europe for processing.

“So we are looking at all options including Latin America. If this is an acquisition it could be as early as next year but new project construction will take two to three years.”  

He added: “Having both parts of the surfactants portfolio will make us stronger. We can only supply our main customers such as [household and personal care groups] P&G, Unilever and Henkel with one part of their requirements.” 

On the reasons why Cepsa Quimica is pushing ahead with debottlenecking projects across its production sites, he said: “We want to strengthen our sites. If they are not competitive then they will be lost. We need a limited number of sites which are big enough to compete with the Middle East and Asia where they are building some huge PET and LAB plants.”

According to Iturrieta, the investments will save €115m ($158m) over the next five years both in improvements in efficiency and energy savings.

Overall investment will be around €100m. Engineering is happening now and construction should begin in early 2012 with completion due by the end of  2013.

At San Roque, Spain , normal paraffin capacity will increase from 400,000 tonnes/year to 450,000 tonnes/year. PET production will increase from 175,000 tonnes/year to 220,000 tonnes/year. 

At Salvador de Bahia, in Brazil, LAB capacity will be boosted from 220,000 tonnes/year to 260,000 tonnes/year. Sulphonic acid capacity will increase from 80,000 tonnes/year to 120,000 tonnes/year. 

At the Montreal plant in Quebec, Canada, purified terephthalic acid (PTA) capacity will go up from 600,000 tonnes/year to between 650,000 and 700,000 tonnes/year.

In October, Cepsa Quimica laid the foundation stone for a $200m (€145m) project to produce 250,000 tonnes/year of phenol and 150,000 tonnes/year of acetone. Start-up is scheduled for the end of 2013.

The plant will consume cumene as a feedstock so approval from local authorities is currently being sought for the construction of a 330,000 tonne/year cumene plant adjacent to the phenol/acetone site. Iturrieta said this project would cost €50m–60m.

“We hope to start construction of the cumene plant in 2012 with completion in mid-2014,” said Iturrieta.

To further boost cumene capacity, 200,000 tonnes/year of capacity is being added at the company’s site at Huelva, Spain, bringing total capacity to 1m tonnes/year.

“This new capacity would be used to back new production of phenol and acetone derivatives, which is currently under study,” he added.

($1 = €0.72)

For more on CEPSA visit ICIS company intelligence

By: Will Beacham
+44 20 8652 3214

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