Petroleum coke projects stirring on US Gulf coast

03 August 2012 22:06  [Source: ICIS news]

HOUSTON (ICIS)--Two gasification projects to convert petroleum coke into methanol, hydrogen and possibly gasoline are stirring on the US Gulf Coast, sources said on Friday.

Both projects are being developed by Mississippi Gasification, a subsidiary of Leucadia National in New York.

Gasification projects were more popular before the price of US natural gas plunged from the development of shale gas reserves.

Eastman Chemical announced a gasification project in 2007 to be built in Beaumont, Texas, but abandoned it two years later citing high capital costs, uncertain US regulations and the likely persistence of a smaller spread between prices for natural gas and oil and petroleum coke.

Mississippi Gasification has a lease option on property at the Port of Pascagoula that was renewed this week by port commissioners, according to Port Director Mark McAndrews.

That project, as outlined to port and county officials, calls for building a $2bn plant that would turn petroleum coke into methanol or gasoline or both, said Doug Cook, project manager for Mississippi Gasification.

County supervisors will have the final vote next week on extending the lease. Cook’s company has made payments of $11,100/month for the past three years on a 185-acre site that was formerly an International Paper plant, McAndrews said.

That project is still years away, requiring continued federal support in loan guarantees from the US Department of Energy, plus all the permitting and environmental approvals that accompany such a project, Cook added.

“We’re in what I would call early development,” Cook said on Friday.

The company’s other project, in Louisiana, is further along, Cook added.

The project in Lake Charles calls for turning over 2m tonnes/year of petcoke into methanol and hydrogen, with construction on the plant set to begin in 2013, Cook said.

The US and Canada have become a magnet for methanol projects tied to natural gas as a feedstock in the past two years.

NYMEX natural gas front-month futures closed Friday at $2.877/MMBtu. Gas futures fell to a 10-year low on 11 April, settling at $1.984/MMbtu.

($1 = €0.82)

By: Lane Kelley
+1 713 525 2653

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