InterviewUS shale gas boom drives process improvements – CPChem

24 July 2012 11:38  [Source: ICIS news]

Dennis Holtermann, vice president for research and technology at Chevron Phillips ChemicalLONDON (ICIS)--The US shale gas boom is helping to drive new developments in technology, Dennis Holtermann, vice president for research and technology at Chevron Phillips Chemical (CPChem), said late on Monday.

New petrochemical projects based on ethane derived from US shale gas are providing new opportunities to improve plant design, he said.

“As we build new plants associated with this new resource, we can further leverage the technology we have. When you’re not building anything, it’s hard to advance technology,” Holtermann said.

“Collectively, this is a huge development for our country in terms of a new untapped resource,” he continued. “It’s a game-changer, particularly in natural gas liquids, which the industry, including CPChem, converts into petrochemicals and further derivatives.”

CPChem, a 50:50 joint venture between US companies Chevron and Phillips 66, plans to build a 1.5m tonne/year ethane cracker at its Cedar Bayou site in Baytown, Texas. It will also construct two polyethylene (PE) plants with a combined 500,000 tonne/year capacity at its Sweeny site in Old Ocean, Texas.

Other chemical companies planning to take advantage of the shale gas boom by building new crackers in the US include ExxonMobil, Shell, Dow Chemical and Formosa Plastics.

Holtermann said CPChem is confident that its integrated cracker and PE project will be the first of these projects to come on stream. “The project is proceeding at a very quick pace, we’ve executed FEED [front-end engineering and design] agreements, the environmental filings are in place and we are targeting full funding in 2013 and start-up in 2017,” he said.

CPChem said in April that it has awarded the FEED agreement for the PE facilities to US-based firm Jacobs Engineering and the FEED agreement for the cracker to fellow US company Shaw Energy & Chemicals.

It is important for CPChem to be first so it can establish its position as a shale gas consumer, because resources could be limited, Holtermann said. “Shale gas is a great game-changer. Therefore, you want to establish your position and get all your long-term contracts in place to ensure profitability.”

The project will allow CPChem to advance its loop slurry PE technology, using the company’s latest catalyst technology developments. Process advancements will help improve operational reliability and safety, reduce costs and decrease the environmental footprint, Holtermann said. These improvements can be achieved, for example, through better heat integration and process simplification, he added.

The company’s on-purpose 1-hexene project at Cedar Bayou will also benefit from technology improvements, Holtermann said. The 250,000 tonne/year project will be more than double the size of CPChem’s joint venture Saudi Polymers 1-hexene plant in Al-Jubail, Saudi Arabia, which is currently in start-up, he said. The Saudi Polymers plant is currently the world’s largest on-purpose 1-hexene plant, he noted.

The 1-hexene project at Cedar Bayou is scheduled to start up in the first quarter of 2014, and will incorporate process design improvements that will reduce by-product formation, improve catalyst efficiency and reduce energy consumption, CPChem said.

The company is also studying a petrochemicals project in Iraq. “We have a non-binding [letter of intent] with the Iraqi ministry to look at an integrated petrochemical complex there,” Holtermann said. He declined to provide further details.

By: Anna Jagger
+44 20 8652 3214

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