31 May 2012 20:18 [Source: ICIS news]
HOUSTON (ICIS)--Prompted by cheap US natural gas, Celanese plans to spend $500m-1bn (€405-810m) either by expanding its large plant in Texas or by building a new unit in Louisiana, a spokeswoman said on Thursday.
Texas-based Celanese’s new chief executive, Mark Rohr, told a Dallas newspaper earlier this week that he would decide by the end of the year whether to expand a large plant near Houston or build a new unit at an unnamed site in Louisiana.
Spokeswoman Linda Beheler said Rohr’s comments confirmed the company’s goal of taking advantage of low natural gas prices in the US.
Rohr did not specify what kind of plant would be built, but a New York stock analyst issued a report on Thursday speculating that Celanese might build a methanol unit.
David Begleiter at Deutsche Bank issued a report stating that Celanese could build a 600,000 tonne/year methanol plant, possibly with a partner, for approximately $500m.
“The potentially new methanol plant would replace Trinidad as the feedstock source for the Clear Lake acetic acid plant, thereby increasing Celanese's security of supply over its key feedstock as well as possibly lowering its cost of supply,” Begleiter said.
For a $1bn investment, Celanese could build the methanol unit plus a 1m tonne/year ethanol plant using the company’s new TCX technology, Begleiter said.
“Product from this plant would be targeted for export for use in fuel blending in Mexico and Brazil,” Begleiter said.
Beheler would not comment on the Deutsche Bank report.
Acetic acid is Celanese’s flagship chemical product. Rohr said earlier this month that he wants the company to keep more of its acetic acid for in-house use to increase profitability and control over the company’s direction.
Celanese said in March that the Chinese government had approved its request to modify a plant in Nanjing to produce industrial ethanol based on the TCX technology. The company plans to open the unit in mid-2013.
Low natural gas prices stemming from shale gas production in North America have made sites in Canada and the US popular targets for methanol producers in recent years.
Methanex restarted a plant in Canada in April 2011 and has announced it may move an idle plant in South America to Lousiana.
And late last year, LyondellBasell announced plans to restart a mothballed Texas methanol unit, also near Houston, in late 2013.
($1 = €0.81)
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