Price and market trends: BASF to keep feedstock flexibility at Port Arthur cracker

05 April 2013 09:43  [Source: ICB]

BASF to keep feedstock flexibility at Port Arthur

Germany-based BASF will continue to increase its ability to use natural gas liquids (NGL) feedstock at its US joint venture cracker in Port Arthur, Texas, but maintain flexibility to crack heavier feeds, a senior executive said on 25 March.

"Our strategy is feedstock ­flexibility and as part of that we are adding an additional furnace and increasing capacity at Port Arthur by 2014," said Heidi Alderman, senior vice president of petrochemicals, North America, for BASF. But we want to retain that ability to flex based on co-product values and feedstock costs," she added on the sidelines of the ­International Petrochemical Conference (IPC).

Naphtha, or heavy feedstock cracking, yields co-products propylene and butadiene (BD). Ethane, or light feedstock cracking, also yields these co-products but in much smaller amounts. The Port Arthur cracker, which is a 60:40 joint venture between BASF and France-based Total Petrochemicals, operates nine furnaces and has capacity of 935,000 tonnes/year.

The company would not disclose how much ethylene capacity would be expanded by with the addition of the new furnace by 2014.

After a number of operational issues following its 60-day turnaround which ended in June 2012, the cracker is now "running well", noted Alderman.

BASF continues to explore options to capitalise on low-cost NGL, she said. "We are absolutely studying all different possibilities to take advantage of shale gas, but not necessarily a new cracker," said Alderman. "Our strategic raw material is propylene and we are net short," she added.

The US abundance of NGL supply is likely to last for a long time, noted Alderman.

"There are lots of reserves and ethane and butane are plentiful. I think that's a trend that's here to stay in our lifetime," Alderman said.

By: Joseph Chang
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