InterviewUS Celanese eyes world markets for its fuel ethanol

07 March 2012 18:44  [Source: ICIS news]

Celanese headquarters in Dallas TexasHOUSTON (ICIS)--US-based acetyls producer Celanese is looking at markets worldwide for its hydrocarbon-based ethanol, an executive said on Wednesday.

Celanese's recently developed technology, TCX, allows it to produce ethanol from natural gas or coal by using acetic acid as an intermediary, according to a recent patent.

Celanese said its process costs less than bio-based production, on which most of the world relies.

In 2013, Celanese plans to start ethanol production in China, using coal as a feedstock.

Initially, Celanese plans to target the industrial ethanol market, since many of the customers also buy its acetyls, said John Fotheringham, Celanese senior vice president and general manager of advanced fuel technologies.

Fotheringham made his comments on the sidelines of the IHS CERAWeek energy conference.

He estimates that the industrial ethanol market is worth about $5bn (€4bn).

However, Celanese is also eying the fuel ethanol market, which is worth $50bn-70bn, he said.

With the Celanese technology, countries could use their non-liquid hydrocarbons to produce fuel ethanol, thus increasing energy independence, Fotheringham said.

In addition to coal and natural gas, these non-liquid hydrocarbons could also be petroleum coke, he said.

"Consider a China, consider an Indonesia, consider an India, countries who are importing crude to manufacture gasoline but who have plentiful resources of their own hydrocarbons," he said.

In addition, Celanese's ethanol would allow countries to avoid some of the trade offs associated with bio-ethanol, such setting arable land aside for fuel versus food, Fotheringham said.

"I think that Celanese and TCX can become very, very successful around the world," he said.

World fuel demand will rise in part because of a growing population.

Plus, demand should increase in developing economies as more people join the middle class and buy automobiles.

Quoting figures from the World Bank and the International Energy Agency (IEA), Celanese said global fuel demand could reach 35m bbl/day in 2035, up from 21m bbl/day in 2010.

"I think the one thing that's certain, that's real certain, is the increase in demand for increased liquid fuels," Fotheringham said. "The other thing that is certain is the fact that there is only a certain amount, and therefore gasoline, available, so there is going to be a requirement for other products."

For the US, the non-biobased ethanol market is limited, as current regulations require fuel blenders to use ethanol produced from corn or other bio-based feedstock.

That could change, however. US Representative Pete Olson (Republican-Texas) introduced House Bill 3773, which would allow fuel blenders to satisfy the nation's ethanol-blending regulations by using ethanol produced by hydrocarbons other than petroleum.

CERAWeek ends on Friday.

($1 = €0.76)

By: Al Greenwood
+1 713 525 2645

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