Ready for rubber

Indian Oil Corp (IOC) recent financial woes do not appear to have dampened its interest in petrochemicals. After pushing back plans for a paraxylene (PX), polypropylene (PP) and styrene plants downstream of a proposed refinery at Paradip, it is interesting to read that the company intends to soon start a detailed feasibility study on a 120,000 tonnes/year joint-venture styrene butadiene rubber (SBR) plant at Panipat.

IOC is considering two partners for the project – one to bring in technology and the second to offtake product for exports. As project cost will be shared by the three partners IOC’s financial commitment is not likely to be big.

A final investment decision has yet to be taken but the company is optimistic of completing the plant by end-2011 or early 2012. Feedstock butadiene would come from a planned 138,000 tonnes/year butadiene plant downstream of the Panipat cracker that is due for commissioning at end-2009.

A SBR plant in India makes sense as the country imports its entire requirement and demand is growing on the back of a strong auto industry. Other companies such as Reliance Industries, Haldia Petrochemicals and ONGC had evaluated projects but abandoned the idea for reasons ranging from feedstock availability to availability of technology.

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