UpdateTrinidad, Mitsubishi agree $850m methanol-to-petchem project

09 April 2013 11:16  [Source: ICIS news]

(adds comments from the Japanese firms in paragraphs 7-10)

HOUSTON/SINGAPORE (ICIS)--Trinidad and Tobago and a group led by Mitsubishi Gas Chemical signed an agreement on Monday to build an $850m (€655m) methanol-to-petrochem project in a new industrial area on the Caribbean island.

The project, first announced in early December 2012, would convert methanol to di-methyl ether (DME) and be built at the Union Industrial Estate in La Brea, according to a statement from Trinidad’s energy minister, Kevin Ramnarine.

The project represents a geographic shift in Trinidad away from the Point Lisas Industrial Estate, where most of the tiny island’s petrochemical plants are located.

The government wants a second petrochemical complex at La Brea, in southwestern Trinidad, where a new port is being built.

The project’s first phase, expected for start-up in 2016, will produce 1m tonnes of methanol and 100,000 tonnes of dimethyl ether, which can be used as a transportation fuel, according to the release.

Phase two of the project would produce mono ethylene glycol (MEG), engine coolants, polyester fibre and PET resin, among other byproducts at the complex.

The other parties to the project are conglomerates Neal & Massy Holdings, which is based in Trinidad and Tobago, and Mitsubishi Corp (MC) of Japan.

“The partners are aiming to reach a final investment decision during the course of the current fiscal year, with commercial operations scheduled to start in fiscal year 2016,” MC and MGC said in a joint statement on Tuesday.

Under the plan, MC and MGC will sell the methanol produced from the project to the global market, citing that demand for the chemical – currently estimated at 60m tonnes/year – is expected to grow at an annual rate of 4-5% in the coming years.

Methanol, made largely from natural gas, is used as a raw material in the manufacture of adhesives, agrochemicals, paints and synthetic resins, among others.

The project’s DME output, on the other hand, would be sold within Trinidad and Tobago and to the wider Caribbean market as an alternative to diesel.

“The partners will continue to work closely with the government of Trinidad and Tobago and Neal & Massy towards the development of other downstream petrochemicals in Trinidad and Tobago,” the Japanese firms said.

But a major problem for any new petrochemical plant in the Caribbean island is finding the natural gas to run it.

The country’s annual audit by energy consultant Ryder Scott for 2011 showed that Trinidad's proven natural gas reserves remained flat.

Trinidad energy minister Ramnarine sought to answer those concerns at the signing ceremony on Monday by saying an established supplier in Trinidad has said it could have gas available for the project by 2016.

Ramnarine said the audit for 2012 would be positively affected by BP’s discovery last year of 1,000bn cubic feet of natural gas offshore.

($1 = €0.77)

By: Pearl Bantillo
+65 6780 4359

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