InterviewEvonik to explore feedstock options for US MMA project

01 October 2012 21:21  [Source: ICIS news]

John RolandoBy Joseph Chang

NEW YORK (ICIS)--Germany-based chemical firm Evonik will explore feedstock options for its planned 120,000 tonne/year methyl methacrylate (MMA) plant in the US, a senior executive said on Monday.

“The Mobile site has a unique advantage, which offers both inbound and outbound logistics. That provides us with a bunch of options in terms of both acetone and methanol feedstock,” said John Rolando, president of performance polymers, North America.

“Domestic and import sourcing are both options – it could be one-sided or a combination of both. This will come out in the engineering study,” he added.

Evonik announced its plan to build the MMA facility in Mobile, Alabama, on 27 September. The plant, estimated to cost in the triple-digit million euro range, is expected to come on line in mid-2015.

The engineering phase is expected to be completed by the third quarter of 2013 and final approvals in 2013-2014, Rolando said.

“We are encouraged by the US natural gas supply situation and all the announcements for chemical projects that could provide raw materials for our project,” Rolando said.

“That’s going to be part of the engineering process – looking at what projects are moving in the US related to our raw material base and when they would start,” he added.

North American methanol capacity will total 4.85m tonnes/year by 2016 if just the announced projects are completed - the largest being LyondellBasell’s restart in Texas late next year, Methanex’s move of a unit from Chile to Louisiana in 2014, and Celanese’s construction of a new plant at its Clear Lake, Texas, site in 2015, said US methanol consultant Jim Jordan at his annual conference in mid-September.

Existing US methanol capacity is around 2m tonnes, boosted by major restarts in 2011 and 2012, Jordan said.

Evonik is targeting the global market for MMA with its US expansion, Rolando said.

“We are building for global demand and the plant will be producing for wherever that demand pops up – it will serve the worldwide market,” he said.

Upon start-up in mid-2015, the plant would produce around 100,000 tonnes/year of MMA and 20,000 tonnes/year of methacrylic acid, with the ability to swing depending on market demand, noted the executive.

MMA is used to make polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA), a polymer used in auto glazing, solar panels and LED lighting. MMA, as well as methacrylic acid, is also used in paints and coatings.

“VOC [volatile organic compounds] regulations rolling through Europe and other countries give us a good growth opportunity in coatings,” Rolando said.

The Mobile MMA plant will not impact any plans for its facility in Fortier, Louisiana, which has capacity of 150,000 tonnes/year, he said.

“The Fortier plant currently supplies our downstream PMMA production and merchant MMA markets in the US. We will continue to debottleneck in all facilities as appropriate,” Rolando said.

Evonik’s Mobile MMA plant will be the first to use its new AVENEER process, which provides improved yield and lower carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. It also does not require the use of sulphuric acid, as compared with the traditional process, according to the company.

Additional reporting by Lane Kelley in Houston

By: Joseph Chang
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