OUTLOOK '14: Smaller projects presage gas-fueled plant boom

06 January 2014 16:00  [Source: ICIS news]

HOUSTON (ICIS)--The new year will have mostly smaller projects coming on line before the surge of activity begins in the second half of the decade.

The year 2014, though, will have a couple of large startups. LyondellBasell's methanol plant in Channelview, Texas, should be running at full capacity by the end of the first quarter.

The company had shut down the plant in 2003 because of then-high natural gas prices. Thanks to the shale gas revolution, US natural gas prices are well below $5/MMbtu and have made methanol production a profitable venture again for the plant.

The plant's capacity is currently 780,000 tonnes/year.

Late in 2014, Methanex should start up a methanol plant that it is moving from Punta Arenas, Chile, to Geismar, Louisiana.

The plant will have a capacity of 1m tonnes/year.

Methanex plans to move a second 1m tonne/year plant from Chile to Louisiana, with startup by early 2016.

Also, Westlake Chemical plans to have a new chlor-alkali plant operating at full capacity in 2014.

The plant, which will use membrane-based technology, is adjacent to Westlake’s existing vinyl chloride monomer (VCM) and polyvinyl chloride (PVC) units at its Geismar complex.

Capacity of the plant is be 350,000 electrochemical units (ECU)/year.

Smaller projects that are starting up in 2014 include Eastman's expansion of its Tritan copolyester capacity at its plant in Kingsport, Tennessee.

When completed in mid-2014, the plant's capacity will rise to 76,000 tonnes/year from 60,000 tonnes/year, the company said.

Among other uses, Eastman has marketed Tritan as a replacement for polycarbonate (PC) in food containers, amid concerns that the latter could leach bisphenol A (BPA).

Meanwhile, Westlake is converting the feedstock of its cracker in Calvert City, Kentucky, from propane to ethane. It is also expanding production of PVC and ethylene at the site.

Ethylene capacity should rise from 450m lb/year (204,000 tonnes/year) to 630m lb/year in Q2 2014.

By late 2014, the company will add 200m lb/year to its existing PVC plant’s capacity of 1.10bn lb/year.

Westlake also plans to expand the capacity of its Lake Charles cracker in Louisiana by 113,399 tonnes/year.

LyondellBasell plans to expand ethylene capacity at its site in La Porte, Texas, by 800m lb/year by mid-2014.

Also in 2014, BASF FINA Petrochemicals plans to add a new furnace to its Port Arthur, Texas, olefins facility.

NOVA Chemicals should complete the conversion of its Corunna cracker in Ontario to lighter feeds by the first quarter. The company has plans to run the cracker at up to 100% light feeds, using natural gas liquids (NGLs) from the Marcellus shale. 

NOVA’s Joffre site in western Canada should be receiving ethane from the Bakken Shale in the northern US by the first quarter of 2014.

The Joffre site will get the ethane via the Vantage pipeline, which will transport ethane from Hess’s Tioga gas plant in North Dakota.

NOVA was among the earliest companies to begin securing supplies of new and untraditional NGL feedstock derived from tight-oil production in North Dakota shale-gas production in the northeast US.

NOVA, though, was followed by several companies eager to use these low-cost NGLs as feedstock for new plants and expansions.

Many of these projects will begin operations in the second half of the decade.

By: Al Greenwood
+1 713 525 2645

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