Price and market trends: Total mulls new US ethane cracker

31 May 2013 09:34  [Source: ICB]

France-based petrochemical and energy firm Total may build a new ethane cracker at Port Arthur, Texas, US to take advantage of cheap feedstock from shale gas.

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.

The BASF Fina Petrochemicals cracker in Port Arthur is a 60:40 joint venture between Germany's BASF and Total.

Pouyanne also said that the existing 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.

In addition to the revamp, BASF Fina Petrochemicals also began building a 10th ethane cracking furnace, scheduled to come on stream in the second quarter of 2014. The new furnace will increase its cracking capacity by nearly 15%, Pouyanne said.

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

By: Joseph Chang
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