Naphtachimie cracker operating at low rates – market source

06 March 2013 15:21  [Source: ICIS news]

LONDON (ICIS)--Naphtachimie’s cracker at Lavera in the south of France has restarted and is operating at low rates, a market source said on Wednesday.

The cracker is currently operating at 25-50% of nameplate capacity, the source said.

No confirmation has yet been obtained from either of the joint venture partners, Switzerland-headquartered INEOS and France-headquartered Total.

The cracker was completely shut down following a fire at one of the unit’s main compressors on 22 December last year. 

Earlier estimates from market sources indicated that the facility might not run at full rates for up to 12 months following the accident.

However, INEOS said in late January that the cracker was expected to resume partial operation in the first half of March and would run at reduced rates as repair work continued.

A 50:50 joint venture between INEOS and Total, the Naphtachimie cracker has a capacity of 775,000 tonnes/year of ethylene, 540,000 tonnes/year of propylene and 120,000 tonnes/year of butadiene.

On 27 February, INEOS said in a quarterly trading statement that the Lavera cracker fire and the subsequent shutdown cost it €6m ($7.8m).

The company reported that its earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) for the fourth quarter of 2012 was €311m, up from €190m in the same period the year before, lifted by its olefins and polymers (O&P) business in North America, which has continued to benefit from its ability to optimise the use of cheaper natural gas liquids (NGL) feedstocks to maintain healthy margins.

INEOS’ full-year 2012 EBITDA was €1.52bn, down from €1.71bn in 2011. The company said its results for the fourth quarter and full year 2012 were adversely impacted in its O&P business in Europe by the Lavera shutdown and the closure of the Elgin gas field in the North Sea after the discovery of a gas leak in March 2012, which remained closed throughout the year.

“The closure [of the Elgin gas field] forced the business to utilise more expensive imported feedstocks for the gas cracker in Grangemouth [in the UK], which impacted the results by €45m for the full year and €23m in the fourth quarter,” INEOS said.

“Petrochemical markets in Europe and Asia have continued to be subdued with industry sentiment remaining cautious.  In contrast, business in North America has been strong with the continuing benefit of its current feedstock advantage,” the company added.

($1 = €0.77)

Renee Lawrence and Franco Capaldo contributed to this story.

By: Samuel Weatherlake
+44 20 8652 3214

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