OCI unit to build largest US methanol plant at Texas site

21 November 2013 17:57  [Source: ICIS news]

OCI unit to build largest US methanol plant at Texas siteHOUSTON (ICIS)--An OCI subsidiary will build a world-scale, 1.75m tonne/year methanol plant at its Texas site in Beaumont, the company said on Thursday.

It would be the largest methanol plant in the US when production begins in late 2016, according to the OCI announcement.

OCI could not be reached immediately, but its chief executive, Nassef Sawiris, told the Houston Chronicle that the goal would be to make methanol as a substitute for gasoline or to be blended with the fuel.

Methanol’s high octane rating and cheap price – at roughly $1.60/gal on the spot market now – has increased its popularity in recent years as a possible alternative fuel or gasoline blend competitive with ethanol.

The newspaper said Sawiris estimated the plant would cost more than $1bn (€750m). Industry executives have pegged the cost of new methanol plants in the US at roughly $1m per tonne of capacity.

OCI’s Texas methanol project is the fifth greenfield or new methanol plant to be announced in the US since the Netherlands-based OCI restarted a mothballed methanol plant in Beaumont in July 2012.

Methanex restarted another plant in Medicine Hat, Alberta, about a year earlier, in April 2011.

North America has been a magnet for methanol activity over the past two years, with Methanex and OCI leading off with plant restarts. The common denominator in at least eight announced domestic methanol projects is that they seek to capitalise on cheap natural gas from the US shale gas revolution.

The list of projects to be restarted, expanded or built new in Texas, Louisiana and Canada over the next two to three years, if completed, would shift the US from being a net methanol importer to net exporter.

OCI CEO Sawiris noted that shift in the announcement, stating that the new plant would “help reduce a substantial reliance on annual methanol imports into the country.”

The US imported about 5.12m tonnes of methanol in 2012, according to the US International Trade Commission (ITC).

OCI said the new plant, to be built by a wholly owned subsdiary, Natgasoline LLC, will be on a 514-acre site in Beaumont that the company recently purchased.

The project will use state-of-the-art methanol technology and incorporate best available environmental control technology.

Natgasoline submitted applications for environmental approvals at both state and federal levels in February 2013.

By: Lane Kelley
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