French Total mulls new US cracker to take advantage of shale gas

23 May 2013 18:33  [Source: ICIS news]

French Total mulls new US cracker to take advantage of shale gasHOUSTON (ICIS)--Total may build a new ethane cracker at Port Arthur, Texas, to take advantage of cheap feedstock from shale gas, the France-based energy and petrochemicals major said on Thursday.

Patrick Pouyanne, president of Total Refining & Chemical, said that in light of the impact of the US shale gas revolution on the global petrochemical industry, Total is examining a project to build a new ethane steam cracker that would be tied to the existing 1m tonne/year BASF Total joint venture cracker at Port Arthur to capture synergies while leveraging cost-advantaged shale gas-based feedstock.

Pouyanne also said that the BASF Total cracker can now use ethane as feedstock, following a revamp. The cracker was originally commissioned in 2001 to process naphtha.

“In response to petroleum product price hikes and the emergence of abundant gas resources, we adapted the steam cracker to give it flexibility and maintain its competitiveness,” Pouyanne said.

“It can now use as a feedstock ethane, which costs around $30 per barrel of oil equivalent (boe)— versus around $100/boe for naphtha — and liquefied petroleum gases such as butane and propane, which are also cheaper,” he said.

The cracker is a 40:60 joint venture between Total and BASF.

In addition to the revamp, BASF Total also began building a 10th ethane cracking furnace, scheduled to come on stream in the second quarter of 2014. The new furnace will improve the steam cracker’s availability and increase its cracking capacity by nearly 15%, making it even more efficient, Pouyanne said.

Total is earmarking its share of ethylene produced by BASF Total for its Bayport polyethylene (PE) plant and its share of propylene for its La Porte polypropylene plant. Both facilities are located in Texas.

By: Stefan Baumgarten
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