NPRA highlights: Chevron Philips, Nova, Sabic and MEG

By Malini Hariharan

The blog has been reading some more interesting reports filed by ICIS colleagues from the International Petrochemical Conference at San Antonio, US. The conference, hosted by the National Petrochemical and Refiners Association (NPRA) concluded yesterday.

* Chevron Philip Chemical’s announcement of a a feasibility study on a ethane cracker at an existing US site helped keep up the optimism at the conference.

The cracker could have a capacity of as much as 1m tonnes/year of ethylene, estimated a market source.

The company said that the project would utilise advantaged feed sources expected from development of shale gas reserves in the country. The study is due to be completed in 2011.

“We are finalising our evaluation of potential sites and advancing discussions with… contractors,” said chief operating officer, Tim Taylor.

Chevron Philip’s announcement follows other planned expansions in the US that the blog listed recently.

* Nova Chemicals will upgrade its Corunna cracker in Canada this year to take 100% light feedstock to take advantage of the increased ethane from Marcellus Shale reserves in the US via pipeline, reported Brian Ford.

* Sabic is progressing on its move downstream into value added products. It plans to commission a world-scale isocynate complex in Saudi Arabia by 2015, the first in the Kingdom. This will be a joint-venture project but the company has yet to disclose who the partner will be.

Sabic affiliate, Saudi Kayan will be commissioning its 100,000 tonne/year ethanolamines in H2 2012.

Sabic’s joint venture methyl methacrylate (MMA) and polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA) projects is on track to start up by 2014.

* The industry is looking at a major shortage of monoethylene glycol (MEG). Growth in polyester would require 1.5m tonnes of annual addition to capacity but companies are being constrained by lack of feedstock options.

“You would need to build two world-scale plants every year and a world-scale plant is 700,000-800,000 tonnes, so you need 1.5m tonnes a year of glycol and nothing is coming. That’s scary,” said MEGlobal vice president for commercial operations Frank Hanraets in an interview with Pearl Bantillo.

“We are looking at all options [to expand]. It’s a matter of where you can find the feedstock,” Hanraets added.

The supply tightness is expected to continue for the next 3-5 years with global demand expanding by 7%/year and growth in China and India running at double digits.

Hanraets thinks the solution is to look at technologies such as MTO [methanol-to-olefins] and coal-to-olefins. MEGlobal, he said, is looking at these options and also the bio-route which involves using sugarcane to get to ethanol, ethylene and MEG.

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