Reliance’s polyester play

By Malini Hariharan

With Indian polyester demand growing steadily at 10%/year Reliance Industries has renewed its focus on expansions along the chain.

Projects that were put on hold after the 2008 economic crisis have been revived and deadlines set.

The company’s plans include two new worldscale purified terephthalic acid (PTA) plants and investments in paraxylene (PX), polyester and polyethylene terephthalate (PET).

“The first PTA plant of 1.1m tonnes/year at Dahej, Gujarat, is scheduled to start up in the first quarter of 2013, and the second one will start 6-12 months later,” said a source close to the company.

Invista would supply technology for the first plant, which would have a single reactor, while Reliance was still evaluating technology options for the second plant, he added. This is a bit of a surprise as Reliance is known to fall back on tried and tested technologies. But the company would obviously like to see what else is on offer.

Part of the feedstock requirement for the PTA plants would be covered by Reliance’s 1.7m tonne/year PX plant at Jamnagar. The rest would come from a new 1.3-1.5m tonne/year PX train, also at Jamnagar, which was scheduled to start operations in 2013, the source added.

The new PTA volumes would feed the company’s downstream polyester investments at Silvassa, Gujarat, which included a 560,000 tonne/year PET plant and a 360,000 tonne/year partially oriented yarn (POY) unit.

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The POY project was already under implementation and should be completed in the next two years while the PET plant would be commissioned in the first quarter of 2013.

“Silvassa is a texturising hub and Reliance already has a unit there which will be integrated with the new POY unit,” he said.

The projects reaffirm the optimism seen in the Indian polyester industry – a result of steady economic growth and the untapped potential of the large rural population.

The country is still a distant second to China in terms of numbers but polyester fibre and filament capacities have grown by 30% in the last four years to around 4.3m tonnes/year while demand is expected to hit 3m tonnes this year. India is already a large exporter, pushing out about 70,000 tonnes every month and this is expected to continue.

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