US Aither Chemicals gauges interest for proposed cracker

22 June 2012 22:14  [Source: ICIS news]

HOUSTON (ICIS)--US Aither Chemicals has signed an agreement with Bayer MaterialScience for an open season to gauge interest in a catalytic ethane cracker for the Kanawha Valley region of West Virginia, the company said on Friday.

The open season began on Friday and ends on 20 July. After it ends, Aither will evaluate the market response and decide on its next steps by 31 August, the company said.

If Aither decides to proceed with a proposed catalytic ethane cracker, production could begin in 2015.

Company spokesman Jason Keeling said the advantage of Aither’s cracking technology is that it is scalable according to the amount of available ethane and demand for the resulting products.

Unlike steam cracking, which uses heat and steam to crack ethane, Aither’s process is catalytic and uses 80% less energy and produces 90% less carbon dioxide (CO2) output, the company said.

Keeling said West Virginia is an ideal place for a cracker because of its proximity to the Marcellus Shale, a rock formation rich in natural gas liquids (NGL) such as ethane.

“This is where the ethane and natural gas supplies are,” he said. “To locate a plant locally makes sense on a number of levels.”

Bayer would not say what its interest was in Aither’s proposed cracker, other than the company is only helping to evaluate third-party interest in the chemicals that would be produced by the cracker.

However, Bayer said it will continue to market land within two of its industrial parks in West Virginia.

“Bayer is currently engaged in serious discussions with companies interested in leasing or buying the available land,” the company said. “The latest announcements from various companies regarding possible pipeline solutions and the growing ethane cracker interest only reinforces our belief that there will be multiple solutions to utilise and maximise this important resource.”

Aither has said it will be able to produce 600m lb (272,000 tonnes) of ethylene and 300m lb of acetic acid.

Renewable Manufacturing Gateway (RMG), a Pittsburgh-based financial advisory non-profit, will advise Aither on evaluating market response to the open season and financing production of the catalytic cracker plant.

Aither and RMG announced earlier this year that they planned to build an ethane cracker in the Appalachian region. They estimated the project would cost $750m (€600m) over five years.

Aither, based in West Virginia, is comprised of certain former Union Carbide employees that worked in the area.

($1 = €0.80)

By: Bobbie Clark
+1 713 525 2653

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