India petchem projects update

By Malini Hariharan

India’s major petrochemical projects are inching forward very slowly and the blog will not be surprised if there are more delays along the way.

Reliance has yet to kick start its 1.4-1.6m tonnes/year cracker project adjacent to two refineries at Jamnagar, on the west coast of India. The cracker will be based on offgases from the refineries. The blog has heard that all is well with the project and final details are being worked out. But then, it has been hearing this for a few months now.

Among the other cracker projects, ONGC Petro-Additions (OPaL), a joint venture between ONGC, GAIL (India) and Gujarat State Petroleum Corp, has finally awarded all major contracts for its 1.1m tonnes/year mixed-feed cracker and derivatives complex at Dahej, Gujarat.

OPaL recently selected technology from Mitsui Chemicals for a 340,000 tonnes/year high-density polyethylene (HDPE) unit, going back on its earlier decision to take technology from Chevron Philips.

And it also selected Marie Technimont as the engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contractor for HDPE plant, a 340,000 tonnes/year polypropylene (PP) unit and two swing HDPE/linear-low density PE (LLDPE) plants each of 360,000 tonnes/year capacity.

A source close to developments says work on the cracker is 50-60% complete and the company is aiming for mechanical completion in January 2013 while the polymer plants will be ready in the second quarter of 2013.

However, this is an ambitious target and 2014 for full start up of the complex looks more realistic.

Meanwhile, GAIL is confident of completing an expansion of its Pata complex in December 2013. A source close to the company says work on the project, which includes a new cracker of 450,000 tonnes/year, a swing 400,000 tonnes/year HDPE/linear-low density PE (LLDPE) plant and a 20,000 tonnes/year butene-1 unit is progressing well and the company should have no problems in meeting the targeted date for completion.

However, GAIL’s second project, a small cracker and derivatives complex at Assam, on the east coast of India will be delayed.

“Work on the project has currently stopped because of the monsoon season and will resume in a couple of months. Completion will be delayed from April 2012 to July 2013,” he adds.

On the aromatics side, Indian Oil Corp (IOC) is still waiting for board approval for 600,000 tonnes/year of paraxylene (PX) and 370,000 tonnes/year of purified terephthaic acid (PTA) project at Vadodara, Gujarat. The company hopes to get approval over the next few months and would then look to complete the project during 2014-15, a delay from the earlier target of 2012-13.

Among the projects under implementation, expansion of a fluid catalytic cracking (FCC) unit at IOC’s refinery in Mathura, Uttar Pradesh is due for completion in January 2013. The extra propylene will be moved to Panipat where it will be used at an existing PP plant.

And work on a 138,000 tonnes/year butadiene extraction unit at the Panipat complex has started and it is likely to commence production in Q1 2013 along with a joint-venture styrene butadiene rubber (SBR) plant.

Meanwhile, the blog has also heard of Sabic evaluating a polycarbonate (PC) investment on the east coast of India. The company has been eying Indian projects for a few years now and finally seems to have narrowed down on one. However, the fate of this project is uncertain given the tensions between India and Saudi Arabia over the anti-dumping duty that India has imposed on Saudi PP exports. A removal of this duty is likely to be a precondition for any major investment by a Saudi company in India.

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